What is it?

A lump on the neck is also called a neck mass. Neck lumps or masses can be large and visible, or they can be very small. Most neck lumps aren’t harmful. Most are also benign, or noncancerous. But a neck lump can also be a sign of a serious condition, such as an infection or a cancerous growth.

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Signs & symptoms

Because a neck lump can be caused by such a variety of conditions and diseases, there can be many other related symptoms. Some people will have no symptoms. Others will have some symptoms related to the condition that’s causing the neck lump.
If your neck lump is caused by an infection and your lymph nodes are enlarged, you might also have a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, or pain in the ear. If your neck lump is blocking your airway, you might also have trouble breathing or sound hoarse when you speak.
Sometimes people with neck lumps that are caused by cancer have skin changes around the area. They may also have blood or phlegm in their saliva.


Your diagnosis will be based on your symptoms, history, and the results of the physical exam. In some cases, your healthcare provider may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist for a detailed evaluation of those body parts as well as your sinuses.
The ENT specialist may perform an oto-rhino-laryngoscopy. During this procedure, they’ll use a lighted instrument to see areas of your ears, nose, and throat that aren’t otherwise visible. This evaluation doesn’t require general anesthesia, so you’ll be awake during the procedure.
Your doctor and any specialist may run a variety of tests to determine the cause of your neck lump. A complete blood count (CBC) can be performed to evaluate your overall general health and provide insight into a number of possible conditions. For instance, your white blood cell (WBC) count may be high if you have an infection. Other possible tests include:
* sinus X-rays
* chest X-ray, which allows your healthcare provider to see if there’s a problem in your lungs, trachea, or chest lymph nodes
* ultrasound of the neck, which is a noninvasive test that uses sound waves to evaluate neck lumps
* MRI of the head and neck, which makes detailed images of the structures in your head and neck


The type of treatment for a neck lump depends on the underlying cause. Lumps caused by bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. Treatment options for cancer of the head and neck include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Early detection is the key to successful treatment of the underlying cause of a neck lump. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery, most cancers of the head and neck can be cured with few side effects if they’re detected early.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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