Neck lumps may be noticed by yourself, either felt or from looking at the mirror. Occasionally it may be noticed by someone else and brought to your attention. The common causes of neck lumps include growths arising from the thyroid gland, lymph node swellings and benign lumps that may also occur elsewhere in the body (e.g. lipoma and sebaceous cysts). Uncommon causes include carotid body tumour, branchial cyst, pharyngeal pouch, and cystic hygroma – these are all medical conditions. They are not common. Your doctor will explain these conditions to you should you be diagnosed with it.
You should have the lump assessed by a doctor to determine its nature, especially if the lump is persistent, growing in size, or associated with symptoms arising from the nose or mouth. One of the possibilities is a lymph node swelling. A lymph node may swell up if there is an infection in the vicinity, such as in the skin of the face or scalp, or in the mouth. In such cases, the lymph node may be tender to touch. A lymph node may also swell up due to cancer spread to it. Such lymph nodes tend to be painless and hard.
As such, it is best to seek medical attention if the neck lump does not disappear in one week or two.
The doctor will take a detailed history from you followed by a physical examination of the lump. The doctor may also examine your oral cavity as well as the scalp, depending on what he thinks the lump is.
Sometimes he will order a scan, especially if he suspects the lump to be arising from the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ situated in front of your throat. The thyroid gland’s function is to produce a hormone called the thyroid hormone. Normally, the thyroid gland is not visible.
There may be situations where a scope of the nose as well as the throat (nasoendoscopy) is done to ensure that there is no abnormal growth there. The doctor may advise this if the person also complains of nose bleed, or hearing loss from one ear, or persistent hoarseness of voice.
The treatment will depend on the nature of the lump. If it is a thyroid nodule, further investigations such as blood test, an ultrasound, or even a biopsy may be performed. If deemed to be an enlarged lymph node from an infection around the oral and nasal cavity, a course of antibiotics may be prescribed. If a cancerous lymph node is suspected, further investigations including a biopsy may be performed.
There is no specific cause for this tumour to form. Some cases may run in the family where affected individuals often have multiple lipomata (plural form of lipoma) found beneath the skin over the trunk and limbs.