Swellings in the neck

Lumps in the neck are a common problem but should never be ignored. The most common cause is swelling of the lymph nodes or “glands”after an illness or infection. This commonly happens after coughs, colds, dental or ear infections. The “glands” swell up as they fight the infection and once you are getting over the illness they rapidly settle down and disappear.

Occasionally a lump in the head or neck may mean something more serious is going on so if you find that you have one or more lumps in the neck that has been present for more than a couple of weeks you need to be seen by an ENT specialist without delay.

What causes a lump in the neck?

There are many causes of lumps or swellings in the head and neck. These include:

  • Lymph nodes (“glands”)
  • Enlarged salivary glands
  • An enlarged thyroid gland
  • Cysts
  • Abscesses
  • Cancer

If you have a neck lump your ENT surgeon will examine you thoroughly to find the cause. You may well require further tests such as an ultrasound of the lump or a cmera test to look carefully inside the mouth to find the cause.

How are neck lumps treated?

As you might imagine, the treatment will depend upon the cause of the lump. In most cases the lump is what we call a “reactive” lymph node – a gland that has swollen up in response to an infection – and this can be left alone and will get better on its own. If the swelling is something else then further treatment of some sort may be required. And whilst yes, a neck lump can be due to cancer it most often is NOT. This is one reason why it is important to see a specialist if the lump has been present for more than a couple of weeks or so so that the correct diagnosis can be made.