Neck Masses

Neck masses are not uncommon and do not always indicate a serious medical problem. However, it is always recommended to have neck swelling evaluated by a head and neck specialist when the patient is an adult and a pediatric otolaryngologist for children.

Neck masses in children

Neck masses occur quite commonly in children and involve swelling that changes the shape of the neck. Neck masses do not usually cause any symptoms and often disappear on their own.

They may be caused by:

  • Enlarged lymph node caused by infection
  • Inflamed or infected cyst
  • Trauma
  • Inflammation of salivary glands
  • Tumor

While most pediatric neck masses are benign, there are those that are not. The only way to determine the type of neck mass a child has is to seek evaluation by a pediatric otolaryngologist.

Your pediatric otolaryngologist may suggest a work up to determine the nature of the mass. This could include a CT scan, blood tests, ultrasound, or other tests depending on the age and health of the child as well as the severity of the condition.

Neck masses in adults

Neck masses in adults are far more likely to be due to concerning pathology than neck masses in children, especially in older patients who smoke or drink. However, there are also many benign causes of neck masses in adults.

Neck masses may form in adults due to:

  • Infection causing enlarged lymph nodes
  • Thyroid tumors
  • Salivary gland tumors
  • Head and neck cancer with spread to lymph nodes

The only way to determine the cause of a neck mass is to seek evaluation by a head and neck surgeon.

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