Neck lump: What are the causes?

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An individual might discover an abnormal neck lump at some point. Oftentimes, the doctor will find a neck lump during assessment. These lumps might be painful or painless depending on the exact cause. The painless ones might be present for an extended period of time before being noticed by the individual.

What are the possible causes?

Most cases of neck lumps are enlarged lymph nodes. Oftentimes, the lump is a congenital cyst, enlarged thyroid gland or an engorged salivary gland.

The enlargement of the lymph nodes can include reaction to a neighboring infection, systemic infections and direct bacterial infection of a lymph node.

Assessment of a neck lump

Neck lump
If an individual has any form of neck lump for more than a few days, it is best to consult a doctor especially those who have warning signs.

Warning signs

Among those who have a neck lump, there are certain symptoms and characteristics that are a cause for concern such as the following:

  • Hardened lump
  • Growths or sores in the mouth
  • Presence of a newly-formed lump or lumps in an older individual
  • Difficulty swallowing and/or hoarseness

Generally, the painless lumps are considered worrisome than the sore ones.

When to consult a doctor

If an individual has any form of neck lump for more than a few days, it is best to consult a doctor especially those who have warning signs. In most instances, these lumps can be seen within a week unless they have other symptoms that require an earlier consultation with a doctor.

What happens during a visit to a doctor?

The doctor will ask questions about the symptoms and medical history and conduct a physical examination. The findings in the assessment is used to determine if there are any tests needed.


If there is an evident source of infection such as sore throat or common cold or the victim is young and healthy with a tender lump present for a few days, testing is not needed right away. Close monitoring is required to check if the neck lump subsides without treatment. If the lump persists, testing is required.


If there are cancer cells detected in an enlarged lymph node in the neck and there are no indications of cancer elsewhere, the whole lymph node that contains the cancer cells is removed along with other lymph nodes and fatty tissue within the neck.

In case the tumor is big enough, the doctor will also take out the internal jugular vein together with the adjacent muscles and nerves. In addition, radiation therapy is often started as well.

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