What is a neck lump?

A neck lump is a protuberance or localized area of swelling in the neck. Other general terms used to describe neck lumps include neck bump, nodule, contusion, tumor, growth and cyst. Lumps in the neck can be caused by a number of conditions, including infections, inflammation, tumors and trauma.

Neck Problems Spotlight

Lumps in the neck may be caused by swollen lymph nodes, which are very small clusters of immune cells that function as part of the body’s immune system. There are more than 600 lymph nodes throughout the body, and the ones most frequently enlarged or swollen are the lymph nodes in the neck, under the chin, in the armpits, and in the groin. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck can be a sign of an infectious disease, such as the common cold, mumps, strep throat, ear infection, or mononucleosis, as well as an infected wound. Swollen neck lymph nodes can also indicate certain types of cancer, such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma or Hodgkin’s disease (Hodgkin lymphoma).

Other causes of neck lumps range from bug bites to severe injuries that can produce a localized collection of blood in the tissues (hematoma). Both benign and malignant tumors of the skin, soft tissues, or organs can sometimes produce lumps in the neck. In these cases, either a biopsy or surgical removal of the lump can determine whether cancer is present.

Cysts, which are fluid-filled, sac-like structures that can form in the neck, often feel like lumps. Some cysts may be present at birth, while others develop as a result of inflammation or tumors. Lumps located on the thyroid gland (which is in the front of the neck) may be caused by cancer or other disease of the thyroid and cause symptoms related to thyroid hormone imbalance. Lumps in the neck can also occur when the salivary gland enlarges due to infection, tumor, or a stone in the salivary duct.

Depending on the specific cause, neck lumps may be single or multiple, soft or firm, painful or painless. They may grow rapidly or may not change in size. Neck lumps can occur in any age group or population.

In some cases, a neck lump may be associated with a serious condition, such as thyroid crisis, serious infection, or life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, develop a neck lump as a result of an injury, or you have chest pain, palpitations, difficulty breathing, change in consciousness, inability to swallow, or hives or swelling of the throat, face or mouth.

Seek prompt medical care for diagnosis if you have an unexplained neck lump or lumps, or if your neck lump or lumps have been diagnosed but are not going away as expected, get bigger, change, or cause you concern.


What other symptoms might occur with a neck lump?

A neck lump may be accompanied by other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Certain conditions that cause neck lumps may also involve other body systems.

Localized symptoms that may occur with a neck lump

A neck lump may be accompanied by other localized symptoms in or around the lump including:


What causes a neck lump?

Neck lumps have many possible causes, including trauma, infection, inflammatory disease, benign cysts and tumors, and cancer. A common cause of lumps in the neck is lymph node swelling due to an infectious process, such as strep throat.

Common infectious causes of a neck lump

Neck lumps are commonly caused by or associated with viral and bacterial infections. Infections... Read more about neck lumpcauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 7, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases

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