Lump on neck, or what some people call “neck masses” are widely varied. They can be small and hardly visible at times. And at other times, they may be very large and conspicuous. Sometimes they are soft and sometimes they are hard. The lump could also be tender and sometimes it’s not. These characteristics depend on the root cause of the lump.
But thankfully, most neck masses are benign (not cancerous) and aren’t harmful. But then, we also know that neck lumps can sometimes signify a serious health issue. It could be a serious infection or even a tumor. If there is a lump on your neck, you should let your physician evaluate it as soon as possible.
The location of lumps could be in your skin or under it, as in cystic acne, sebaceous cysts, or lipomas. Lipomas refer to benign fatty growths. But then, lumps can also come from organs and tissues in your neck region. The origin of the lump is very vital to know what you are dealing with. But then, the neck is a complex region.
There are lots of muscles, organs, and tissues in and near your neck. So neck lumps can originate from many places, including lymph nodes, different glands (mainly the thyroid and parathyroid glands), laryngeal nerves, and neck muscles.
Lumps can also originate from the trachea, larynx, cervical vertebra, and the brachial plexus, as well as various veins and arteries. Let’s examine the causes and symptoms of neck masses, as well as when you should seek help.
Possible Causes of Lump on Neck
The most rampant cause of neck lumps is lymph node enlargement. Your lymph nodes are part of your immune system. They contain immune cells that assist your body in fighting off infections. These cells also fight cancer cells.
Whenever you fall sick, these lymph nodes may become enlarged. This shows that they are highly active in trying to fight off whatever infection your body is dealing with. Common reasons why lymph nodes in your neck can enlarge include the following:
- Ear infections
- Sinus infections
- Strep throat
- Scalp bacterial infections
- Dental infections
Other illnesses may also cause you to have a neck mass. They include cancer, autoimmune diseases, and thyroid disorders like goiter.
Mump virus and a few other viruses can also enlarge your salivary glands. Neck muscles may develop a lump as a result of torticollis or injury.
Certain forms of cancer can also cause neck lumps. But then, most cases of neck lumps have nothing to do with cancer. But in adults, there are higher chances of developing a cancerous neck lump from age 50 upwards.
Lifestyle choices like drinking and smoking may also play a role. Do you know that long-term alcohol and tobacco use are the 2 greatest oral cancer risk factors? Oral cancer includes cancers affecting the throat and mouth.
HPV infections are another major risk factor when it comes to oral and neck cancers. These infections are usually transmitted sexually. It is a very common infection. And to think that almost 70 percent of throat cancer patients have signs of HPV infection. There must be a very strong link.
Other forms of cancer that may cause neck lump include lung, thyroid, breast, and throat cancers. Some skin cancer forms, like actinic keratosis and melanoma, among others can also cause neck lumps.
Other possible reasons why you may have neck lumps include lipomas, allergic reactions (probably to certain foods or medications), and salivary duct stones.
Symptoms Linked to Neck Lumps and When to Seek Help
Some other symptoms may come with neck lumps. These symptoms usually depend on the root cause. These symptoms are widely varied because neck lumps have many different causes. Depending on the cause, some people may not have any symptoms but some others experience symptoms.
If the neck lump you have is due to an infection, you may have lymph nodes enlargement, as well as difficulty swallowing, sore throats, or ear pain. And if the lump is causing airway obstruction, you may have breathing difficulty.
For those who have neck lumps due to cancer, they may experience skin changes in the skin area. Sometimes, they also have phlegm or blood in their sputum (or saliva).
There is only one way to know whether you should worry about your neck lump or not. It is by going for proper medical checkup. But generally speaking, if the lump is soft, you may have no reason to worry. And if the lump is only transient or leaves and reappears, it is most likely nothing serious.
On the other hand, if there is any form of redness or if the lump is very tender, you may be dealing with an infection. In that case, antibiotics may be all you need. The most dangerous forms of lumps are usually very hard, craggy, or solid. Such lumps also grow gradually over some weeks. Proper medical attention is very necessary for these kinds of lumps, especially those that stick around.
But then, certain symptoms will necessitate immediate medical attention if they occur alongside a neck lump. They include:
- Losing weight with no effort
- Voice changes (like when your voice becomes hoarse) for over 3 weeks
- Swallowing difficulties
- Night sweats
- Breathing difficulties
- If you cough up blood
- Persistently feeling tired
- Unexplainable bruises
Treatment for Neck Lumps
Treating a lump on the neck will depend on the root cause. If your lump is a result of bacterial infections, the treatment plan will involve using antibiotics. But if you have cancer, you will likely need surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy. But then, treatment is more successful when you detect cancers early on.
Anyone can have neck lumps, but they don’t usually connote any serious health problem. Lump on neck is better handled when you visit your physician for accurate diagnosis and proper treatment on time. If you get prompt medical attention, you will be able to detect any serious problem early and treat it before it goes out of hand.