A lump on the neck is also referred to as a neck mass. Neck masses or lumps may be visible as they are large or they may be very small. Majority of the neck lumps are benignand do not cause harm. However, they can also be a symptom of a serious illness such as a cancerous growth or an infection. If there is a lump on your neck, you should get it promptly evaluated by your physician. Visit your physician immediately if there is an unexplained mass on your neck.
What Can a Lump on Neck Mean?
Common Infections That Can Cause a Neck Lump
Neck lumps are quite commonly a result of bacterial or viral infections. Infections that usually result in neck lumps are:
- Infection of the ear
- Viral respiratory infection (common cold)
- Abscessed tooth or infected tooth
- Flu or influenza
- Strep throat (throat infection due to bacteria) and other types of infections of throat
- Mumps (infected salivary glands present in the neck due to a virus)
- Tonsillitis (inflamed tonsils)
Other Infectious That Can Cause a Neck Lump
Less common infections that are potentially life-threatening and cause neck lumps are:
- Cat scratch fever
- Cellulitis (skin infection caused by bacteria)
- Infection of the salivary glands
- Syphilis (sexually transmitted infection caused due to bacteria)
Autoimmune Diseases That Can Result in a Lump on Neck
Neck lumps may be due to immune system problems, including:
- Grave’s disease (a kind of hyperthyroidism that results in excessive production of thyroid hormone)
- Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (chronic disease of the immune system that is characterized by inflammation of joints in children and adolescents)
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (a condition in which the immune system attacks body’s healthy tissues and cells)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic disease characterized by inflammation of the joints)
Cancers That May Cause Neck Lumps
Neck lumps may also occur due to various types of cancers such as:
- Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Thyroid cancer
- Cancers of the oral cavity, mouth or larynx
- Cancers of the skin other than melanoma
- Cancer from other body parts that has metastasized to the lymph nodes in the neck
Benign Tumors That May Cause a Lump on Neck
Certain benign tumors can also result in neck lumps. Some of these are:
- Tumor of the salivary glands
Other Causes of Neck Lump
Neck lump may also occur as a result of:
- An allergic reaction
- Broken bones such as fracture of the collarbone
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Stone of the salivary duct
- Injuries due to insect bite or sting
- Lymphatic obstruction
- Hematoma or bruising (blood collects in the tissues of the body)
What Are the Symptoms of Neck Lump?
Depending upon the cause, neck lump may be multiple or single, firm or soft, or painless or painful. They may either grow rapidly or not grow at all.
Localized Symptoms Which May Appear with Neck Lumps
A lump on the neck may be associated with certain localized symptoms around or in the lump, including:
- Warmth and redness
- Discharge or pus
- Pain or tenderness
Other Symptoms That May Accompany a Neck Lump
Symptoms related to other systems of the body may accompany a neck lump, including:
- Bleeding from the gums
- Pain in ear
- Symptoms like cold or flu (fatigue, runny nose, sore throat, fever, cough, headache, pains and aches)
- Sores in the genitals (an indication of presence of syphilis)
- Enlargement of lymph nodes in the groin or armpits
- Itching or rash
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Unexplained loss of weight or appetite
Serious Symptoms Accompanying a Neck Lump Which May Indicate a Life-Threatening Illness
In certain cases, a lump on neck may be associated with symptoms that indicate a life-threatening or serious illness that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency room. Seek immediate medical attention (call 911) if you, or someone you know develop any of the following symptoms:
- Chest discomfort or pain, rapid pulse or palpitations
- Inability to swallow
- Development of hives or swelling of the face, throat or mouth
- Change in level of alertness or consciousness such as unresponsiveness or passing out
- A neck lump developing due to an injury
- Uncontrollable or profuse bleeding from a wound in the neck
- Breathing or respiratory problems such as difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, labored breathing, choking, wheezing or not breathing
How Is Neck Lump Treated?
The treatment strategy for a lump on the neck is decided according to the cause of the lump.
- Lumps that are caused due to bacterial infections are managed using antibiotics.
- Neck lumps that are caused as a result of minor infection due to a virus can often be treated using self-care home measures and the neck swelling usually goes away as the body fights with the infection.
- If minor injury has resulted in a lump on the neck, it can be treated using non-surgical methods.
- When cancerous cells are present in an enlarged lymph node of the neck and no other signs of cancer are found in the body, the entire lymph node that contains the cancerous cells is removed along with the fatty tissue and additional lymph nodes in the neck.
- If the neck tumor is large, your physician may also incise and remove the internal jugular vein in association with nearby nerves and muscles. Radiation therapy may also be given.
Early detection of the exact cause is vital to the successful treatment of a lump on neck. Majority of the head and neck cancers can be treated with few side effects if early detection of the cancer is made.