Finding a lump in your neck can give you a nasty shock, but most neck masses are due to infections rather than cancer. Even so, if you have a neck mass, you should visit the team at Advantage ENT for an accurate diagnosis. At their offices in Arvada, the northern part of Westminster, and Wheat Ridge, Colorado, the board-certified otolaryngologists provide prompt assessments and expert treatments for the causes of neck masses. To put your mind at rest and get any therapy you need, call the Advantage ENT office nearest you or request an appointment online today.
A neck mass is a lump or swelling that you can see and feel on the outside of your neck. The most likely cause of a neck mass is enlarged lymph nodes, especially in younger people.
The lymph nodes in your neck are part of your immune system, helping to keep harmful microorganisms out of your body.
Lymph nodes can swell when fighting an infection like strep throat, or if they become infected themselves, they may form a soft mass in your neck. A systemic infection (one that affects your whole body) like mononucleosis can also cause these soft neck masses.
Less commonly, neck masses may be due to cancer, which is more likely to develop in older people. The mass may be part of a tumor in your mouth or throat that's spreading into your neck, or it could be a cancerous lymph node.
Cancer in the lymph nodes may be lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) or metastatic cancer that’s spread from elsewhere in your body. Cancerous neck masses are usually painless and very solid.
There are three other likely causes of neck masses:
Cysts are fluid-filled lumps that don't cause problems unless the fluid becomes infected. Infection can cause swelling and pain.
The submandibular gland under your jaw can become enlarged from a blockage, infection, or cancer.
The thyroid gland in the middle of your neck can develop an enlargement known as goiter, a noncancerous type of neck mass. Thyroid cancer and thyroiditis (thyroid inflammation) can also cause neck masses but are less common.
The appearance of a neck mass requires medical evaluation, especially if you have other symptoms like sores or growths in your mouth, problems swallowing (dysphagia), hoarseness, or fever.
The treatment needed for your neck mass depends on the underlying cause. If it is due to an infection like a cold, you probably won't need treatment. You should monitor the lump to make sure it goes down when your health improves. If you have a bacterial infection like strep throat, you may need a course of antibiotics.
Thyroid neck masses might require treatment with radioactive iodine or radiation, and in some cases, surgery to remove part or all of your thyroid gland. Surgery might also be necessary for a cancerous neck mass.
If you find a neck mass, don't delay in getting a diagnosis. Call Advantage ENT or request an appointment online today.