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Ear Nose and Throat

Neck Masses

What is a neck mass?

A neck mass is an abnormal swelling or lump in the neck. It can be large or small.
All neck lumps or masses that last for more than two weeks should be examined by a physician.

What can cause a neck mass?

Generally, the mass may be due to a congenital condition, inflammatory condition, infection, or tumor (benign or malignant).

  • Neck lumps in children are usually caused by infections.
  • Infection, inflammation, or cancer can cause lymph nodes in the neck to swell.
  • Swollen salivary glands can be caused by infection, mumps, a salivary tumor or a stone in the salivary gland.
  • Lumps directly under the skin on the neck are often cysts.
  • The lump may be a lipoma (fatty benign tumor).
  • The thyroid gland in the front of the neck can swell due to nodules, goiter or cancer, which can spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Long term tobacco use can cause mouth, throat and tongue cancer.

A correct diagnosis is essential to the correct treatment.

When should you be concerned about a neck mass?

  • The mass lasts longer than two weeks
  • The mass enlarges
  • The mass gets smaller but doesn’t go away Voice changes
  • Trouble or pain swallowing
  • Ear pain or hearing problems
  • Neck or throat pain
  • Breathing difficulty

How is the mass diagnosed?

Your symptoms, age, and risk factors (such as smoking history) can help narrow the diagnosis. If the mass is tender it is likely due to an inflammatory condition. Non-tender neck masses that have been present for weeks may suggest a tumor which can benign or malignant.

Your Fayetteville Otolaryngology physician will conduct a physical exam to define the size, location and qualities of the mass. They may use a lighted tool called an endoscope examine your nose, mouth and throat. Because of the wide range of causes, blood tests and imaging studies may be ordered. If the mass is tender, antibiotics may be prescribed. Depending on the findings, a biopsy may be indicated.

The ENTs at Fayetteville Otolaryngology are experts in conditions of the ears, nose and throat. When a diagnosis is reached, your doctor will discuss your treatment options.


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