Diseases & Conditions

Neck Lumps: Early Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Sometimes we feel that when some protuberances, bulges or balls are appearing in our neck, and the first thought is: it’s a cancer! Nevertheless, the vast majority of these protuberances, bulges or balls, especially in children and in younger adults, are just: neck lumps and bumps.

Neck lumps and bumps are extremely common and they have various causes that are possible to occur in a person’s neck. And they can be produced superficially from the skin of a person’s body or deeply from underneath of it, until they arise to the point where it forms a very notorious circular deformation.

Types of neck lumps

There are many types of neck lumps and many places in which it can appear, such as:

  1. lump on back neck
  2. lump on side neck
  3. lump on throat
  4. lump on back neck side right
  5. lump on left side of neck
  6. lump on right side of neck
  7. lump at base of neck
  8. bump on back of throat
  9. small bump on back of neck
  10. lump on left side of throat
  11. lump on lower neck.


Symptoms that ensure the possibility of having neck lumps, are:

  • loss of weight without trying to
  • changes in the voice (a hoarse voice, a guttural voice)
  • difficulty to swallow (even light food)
  • sweats at night
  • difficulty to breath
  • coughing up blood
  • constant feeling of tiredness
  • appearance of bruises and numbs without any explanation.

By having some or all of these symptoms is a clear alert that the disease of lumps in neck is here, so it is indispensable and very important to visit the closest doctor as soon as possible.

See how does an examination of a neck lump looks like:

Where do lumps appear?

Lumps can appear superficially in the skin of the neck and internally underneath of it, and the various structures where they can start developing themselves are:

The skin;

Stratus of tissue;

Fat and muscles that composed the system around the neck;

The thyroid gland, which is located in the middle part of the neck and it has the function of controlling the metabolism;

The salivary glands, which has the function of releasing saliva at the moment of eating or thinking about food, and it is divided in three main salivary glands:

  • the parotid gland (located in front of the ears),
  • the submandibular gland (located under the jaw)
  • the sublingual gland (located under the tongue);

The blood vessels in the neck, where the main one is the carotid artery;

The lymph nodes that occupy diverse positions in the body, including many in the neck, and have the main function of combatting the infections and inflammations that can occur in the body.

Elemental neck lumps causes

It’s confirmed that the most likely cause of neck lumps is a swollen lymph node, or lymph gland as it is also known. A human’s neck is composed by more than 100 lymph nodes, and the majority of the time they cannot be felt and we do not know that they are there. So, if they get infected or get an inflammation, they can create terrible repercussions and evolve into the neck lumps.

Infections as origin of lumps

But there are other causes that must be considered for this disease, infections that can damage little by little the neck and evolve into lumps, and they are:

  • common cold
  • tonsillitis
  • glandular fever
  • chickenpox
  • chest infections,
  • ear infections
  • dental infections
  • head lice,
  • cold sore (herpes) infections
  • Kawasaki disease
  • HIV.

This last one is, as many know, a sexual infection, and some studies made by the ACS it have been discovered that in two-thirds of the people that have been diagnosed with it, have had strong cases of neck lumps.

Neck lumps caused by psoriasis and ecezma

On the other hand, lymph nodes can also be swelled by diseases related with the inflammation, such as psoriasis or eczema on the head. A condition that is known with the name of sarcoidosis can also generate that the lymph nodes get swelled. Even cancers that were born near the lymph nodes can produce a hard swelling, and some of these cancers are: leukemia, lymphoma and secondary repercussions that were spread in the body from other cancers such as lung cancer and stomach cancer.

Salivary glands and lumps

In the salivary glands, some causes can also occur that could end up in neck lumps; and, this is why there is a tube in that zone that has the function of taking the saliva to the mouth, working as a duct, and sometimes this biological way of saliva transportation gets blocked by salivary gland stones or debris, causing infections that can eventually produce swelling in the neck or even worse, develop a cancer from the salivary gland.


Extended use of Tobacco and alcohol can become into a great risk factor of acquiring cancer in the mouth and throat; the consummation of them is in fact considered as the greatest factor of cancer for some organizations.

There are problems of thyroid as well, that cause lumps coming from the thyroid gland, which can include: goitre, non-cancerous lumps, and even thyroid cancer.

Skin diseases

Superficially talking, lumps can also be produced from the skin of the neck, resulting from diseases that can effect in an invariable period of time, such as: acne, skin tags, abscesses, sebaceous cysts, among others.

Allergic reactions

There are other causes of neck lumps, but they are less common and very rare to happen; they are the ones provoked for allergic reactions to some medications or foods.

Neck bumps & lumps treatment guide

The treatment of the neck lumps varies according to the cause of it. So there isn’t a complete and only one treatment. For example, reactive lymph nodes do not require any special treatment, because they can be cured once the condition that causes them in the first place is put under control.


On the other hand an underactive thyroid gland could be treated with the replacement of the thyroid hormone: the thyroxine. Removing the stones in the salivary ducts that causes swelling, by blocking the path the fight against the neck lumps can be won. When it is about skin infections such as abscesses and skin tags, with the use of some antibiotics, these issues can be treated, as well.


Operations can be undertaken, in order to heal neck lumps. These cases are applicable when there are skin tumors or large lipomas (small lipomas are not as urgent to treat as the large ones if they do not cause any bother) involved in the case.


Whilst chemotherapy is really effective and usually taken in count to treat cancers related with the blood, such as: lymphoma and leukemia.

The possible tests that the doctor or specialist should recommend in case of having a patient diagnosed with neck lumps, depend from the symptoms of that patient. Those tests can be:

  • physical exams, in order to check the patient’s physical condition;
  • sinus X-rays;
  • oto-rhino-laryngoscopy, which is done by using an lighted instrument to explore areas of the nose, ears and throat that are not otherwise visible. This procedure does not need general anesthesia in order to be done, and that is why the patient needs to be awake during the process;
  • chest X-rays, which gives the chance to the doctor or specialist to see if the lungs, trachea or chest lymph nodes are working as they should;
  • ultrasound of the neck, which permits making an noninvasive test that works using sound waves to evaluate neck lumps;
  • MRI of the head and neck, which creates detailed images of the structures in the head and neck of the patient, with very specific details of them.

When to refer a specialist?

Depending of the position of the neck lumps, the characteristics of them, the symptoms that appear, and other things to have in count with questions that the doctor or the specialist could ask, such as: when did it appear?; do you smoke?; does it hurt?; how have you been feeling lately?, and others related questions, is how the doctor or the specialist will determine its location in the neck, its consistency, whether there are any other lumps or not and, the most important, how to treat the disease, giving good advises and telling the best things to do in order to follow the chosen treatment by every letter.

This a very dangerous disease that can happen to anyone, and often times, ignoring early signs of lumps, leads to a fully developed disease. That is why is very important to check on a professional (a doctor, a healthcare provider, a specialist) if are present some of the symptoms that can result in developing neck lumps. Like all illnesses, it is better to get as soon as possible a diagnosis of what it could be and a good treatment in order to stop the spreading or the repercussions that can be caused by this illness.

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