Feeling a lump on your neck can be worrisome, but in the large majority of cases, these lumps aren’t cause for concern. That’s because the most common cause of a neck lump is a swollen lymph node. We have more than 100 lymph nodes in our neck and they can become swollen when our body is fighting an infection or experiencing inflammation. If your neck lump doesn’t go away after a few weeks, grows in size or feels hard when you press on it, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to have the lump examined.
A neck lump can be a sign of head and neck cancer, particularly if it is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- Unexplained bruising
- Difficulty swallowing
- Night sweats
- Difficulty breathing
- Unexplained weight loss
You’ll first consult with your primary care physician who will conduct a full physical exam. He or she will examine the location of the neck lump and learn about any additional symptoms you’re experiencing to determine if further testing for head and neck cancer is needed. If so, your doctor may order a blood test, an ultrasound scan and/or a chest X-ray. Your doctor may also refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for further evaluation.
What are my treatment options for head and neck cancer?
Treatment for head and neck cancer is highly varied depending on the type of cancer, its location in the neck and a patient’s overall health. In general, treatment involves surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. At Moffitt Cancer Center, we take an individualized approach to diagnosing and treating head and neck cancer, tailoring each treatment plan to the patient’s specific needs. Patients receive the expertise of a wide range of specialists in our Head and Neck Cancer Program, including medical oncologists, ENT physicians, radiation oncologists and supportive care providers to give them the best chance of a positive outcome and improved quality of life.