Neck mass is an abnormal lump present in the neck. Depending on what’s causing the neck mass, they can be painful or painless. The painless neck mass is so subtle that they can go unnoticed for an extended period. Doctors are usually the ones to discover them during an examination.
What Causes A Neck Mass?
Neck masses are enlarging lymph nodes; other times, they are congenital cysts, enlarge salivary glands, or thyroid glands.
1. Enlarged Lymph Nodes
Enlarged lymph nodes are most common among younger people. This neck mass in the lymph nodes develops because of any of the following reasons:
- Direct lymph node bacterial infection known as lymphadenitis. Nodes infected with this bacterial infection are very tender to touch.
- Reaction or response to nearby infections, like the dental, throat, or upper respiratory infection;
since they are not tender but soft in this situation, they return to their standard shape once the infection goes away.
- Reaction to certain systematic infections can cause multiple lymph nodes enlargement, some of which are present in the neck. The most common type of such neck mass comes in the form of conditions like mono, HIV, and tuberculosis.
- One severe form of enlarged lymph node neck mass is the serious cancerous neck lumps.
2. Congenital Cysts
Cysts masses in the neck are hollow and fluid-filled. These masses are typically harmless. When infection of any sort spreads to these masses, it is then that they become harmful.
The reason for them being harmless is that some cysts, like the epidermoid cyst, develop inside the skin. In addition, complications in fetal development can also lead to abnormalities like cysts being present in the neck since birth.
3. Enlarge Salivary Glands
Neck mass can also occur in the form of salivary glands enlarging. These glands are present under the jaw, also known as the submandibular gland. They form neck mass when a stone blocks them, they get infected or develop cancer.
4. Enlarge Thyroid Glands
Thyroid glands enlargement is the most common cause of neck mass. These glands are present above the breast bone in the middle of the neck. Among the types of thyroid gland enlargement, the most common is the goiter that is benign or noncancerous. Cancerous and inflamed thyroid gland neck mass are less common.
5. Cancerous Neck Lumps
Maligant neck lumps are cancerous. These neck mass occur most commonly in elderly individuals but can also happen in younger people. These cancerous lumps or nodes are not tender or painful, but they are rock hard to touch.
These cancerous lumps can possibly be masses of nearby structures, such as, from the throat or mouth, which has grown to the neck. These lymph nodes can also form when cancer spreads from a distant part of the body. Moreover, they can also occur when cancer arises in the lymphatic system itself as in lymphoma.
How Is A Neck Mass Treated?
The treatment for any neck mass varies with the cause of neck mass. However, treating a cancerous neck lumps follows a standard surgical procedure. When doctors find no sign of cancer cells anywhere else, other than the ones found in enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, then they remove the entire lump containing the cancer cells. Moreover, doctors sometimes remove additional lymph nodes and fatty tissues present in the neck along with the cancerous lump. As a precautionary method, if the tumor in the neck mass is large enough, then the doctors might also have to remove the internal jugular vein with nearby nerves and muscles.
It is better to get your neck mass examined as soon as you notice any swelling or lump. Many certified Otolaryngologist and ENT specialists, like Dr. Michael C. Burnett, MD, suggest that the painless neck mass are the most worrisome. As a precaution, get them checked immediately. ENT specialists also provide us with a brief list of warning signs that we should keep a lookout for. These include:
- Having a tough lump
- Noticing any sort of growth or lump in your mouth
- Experiencing hoarseness or difficulty in swallowing
- Noticing a new lump
For more information about your neck mass, call Dr. Michael Burnett at 212-867-4813.