Neck lumps

Lumps in the neck are common, and may be the first presentation of serious disease, so a thorough assessment and diagnosis are essential. If there is any doubt as to the cause, Associate Professor Ch’ng can provide a comprehensive assessment.

The assessment by Dr Ch’ng will include a thorough examination of the neck, scalp, face, nose and mouth, endoscopy and investigations such as CT, MRI, PET and ultrasound scans. Dr Ch’ng may organise a biopsy (taking a sample of cells), which is the best method of determining whether the lump is cancerous or not.

There are three main types of neck lump: cancers, benign masses and infectious lumps.

When a neck lump is due to cancer, it is usually due to spread from another location such as the skin of the face and scalp, mouth, throat, voice box (larynx) or thyroid gland. Some signs that suggest a neck lump may be cancerous include being very firm, immobile, and slowly growing.

There are many causes of benign (non-cancerous) neck lumps. Benign masses can be serious if they affect nerves or exert pressure in the head and neck region, and are often removed surgically. Examples include cyst, lipoma, goitre (swelling of the thyroid gland), vascular and lymphatic masses, pharyngeal pouch, branchial cyst and others.

A large proportion of neck lumps are due to inflamed lymph nodes following infection in the head and neck region. Some virusese, e.g., glandular fever and mumps cause persisting lumps.