It is common to have a lump on the neck. In most cases, such a lump is described as benign, meaning that it will not lead to cancer.
Most lumps on the neck are caused by swollen lymph nodes. Lymph nodes swell when there is need to fight off a microbial invasion. They are common causes of a painful lump behind ear. Infections, health conditions and diseases such as cancer can also cause a lump on the neck.
It is always very important to know when to consider a lump benign and when to seek immediate medical help. While self-examination at home can help, the final word on whether a lump is harmless or not should be from a doctor.
Lump on back side of the neck under skin
Around the neck region, there are at least 6 centers where lymph nodes are located. Any one or more of these lymph nodes can swell in the advent of an infection or disease. The most noticeable swollen lymph nodes are ones located behind the ear, under the jaw, on either side of the neck and behind the neck.
If you notice a painful, hard lump on the back side of the neck, chances are that it is a swollen lymph node. This is especially likely if it is accompanied by swelling of other lymph nodes in the neck region.
Lumps on the back side of the neck can also occur due to formation of cysts. Cysts form hard, painless bumps that usually go away on their own after some time. They form shallowly in the skin, in form of sacs filled with fluid, pus or gas.
A lump under the skin behind the neck that moves when pressed is likely caused by lipoma. Lipoma lumps develop due to accumulation of fat on localized body regions. They are not harmful or painful.
If the lump is causing pain, burning sensation and filled with pus, it could be a boil. Boils are forms of bacterial infections. Simple treatment with antibiotics or home remedies can clear boils effectively.
Lump on right and left sides of the neck
A lump on the right and left side of neck can be caused by any of the following:
Swollen lymph nodes
As mentioned earlier, the neck region is home to a number of lymph node terminals. If you are to squeeze either side of your neck, you will feel pea-sized tiny hard lumps that slightly move when touched. Those are the lymph nodes. In times of infection or diseases, the lymph nodes may swell to form painful hard lumps on the side of the neck. Swollen lymph nodes are felt as a lump in throat when swallowing.
Viral infections are common in the neck region. In most cases, the salivary glands are usually affected. Viral attacks on the salivary glands may lead to inflammation and formation of hard lumps on both sides of the neck. Such inflammations are accompanied by symptoms such as fever, rash and chills.
Bacterial inflections are not rare in the neck region. They are common in patients with weak immunity. Bacterial infections are normally accompanied by symptoms of TB, strep throat, tonsillitis and abscess. Abscess is a common cause of painful lump in earlobe.
Cysts that cause lumps on the side of the neck are slightly different from the cysts we are used to. In this case, the cysts form in the internal organs rather than in the skin. Thyroglossal duct cysts and branchial cysts are good examples. They are more common in children.
Chronic inflammations on the side of the neck can be caused by autoimmune diseases such as a goiter. A goiter is inflammation of the thyroid gland due to deficiency in iodine. A lump due to a goiter is usually large, obviously visible and painless. Although it is not cancerous, a goiter is fatal if not treated.
A number of cancers can cause lumps on the side of the neck. These include thyroid cancer, mouth cancer, lymphatic cancer and throat cancer. Cancerous lumps are usually hard, immovable and painless. Most of them are irregularly shaped at the edges. It is however important to note that cancerous lumps can exhibit different characteristics such as being soft, painful and round in shape.
Lump on neck under chin
The neck region under the chin is also commonly affected by lumps. A lump on the neck under the chin is in most cases caused by swollen lymph nodes. This can occur due to viral infections, bacterial infections, tooth abscess, injuries in the mouth or infections such as oral herpes. Severe infections will trigger a painful lump in the armpit due to swelling of lymph nodes.
If the lump is hard and accompanied by swelling in the neck, it could be caused by salivary duct stones. This is a condition caused by blockage of salivary ducts.
Cancer of the salivary glands can also manifest in form of hard lump under chin with no pain. In most cases, the lump will be accompanied by swollen lymph nodes and appearance of lumps elsewhere in the body.
Infections in the mouth are possible causes of lumps in the neck under the chin. In fact, it is only in rare occasions that a cause will not be directly linked with the mouth.
Other causes of lump on back side of neck, either side or under the chin
It causes swelling of the lymph nodes in different regions of the body. It is a sexually transmitted disease, caused by a deadly virus. HIV/AIDS may also lead to formation of a hard lump on the testicle and the genital region.
It is a condition that develops due to formation of fat deposits under the skin. Lumps due to lipoma feel soft, movable and rubbery to touch. Lipoma is harmless and painless. It occurs deeper into the skin compared to cysts.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease. It causes inflammations in different parts of the body. Lupus is dangerous and should be treated by a doctor.
This is a condition that causes swelling of the neck. Patients are forced to attain a twisted neck posture.
Measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox
All four are viral diseases. Measles is accompanied by rash and fever. Mumps causes swelling of the neck region under the chin.
Also referred to as the ‘kissing disease’, it is a viral infection that causes sore throat, fever and general weakness.
An itchy, swollen and irritated lump in the neck region can occur due to allergic reactions. This happens after contact with an allergen. Common allergens include peanuts, dairy products and eggs.
This is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints. It is commonly characterized by lumps in the neck region.
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. It attacks the white blood cells. Common symptoms include lumps in the neck and under the chin.
Lump on neck in children
A lump on your child’s neck can be quite alarming. It is in fact very advisable to get such a condition checked by a doctor. Below are common causes of lumps on the neck in children:
Swollen lymph nodes
Children are prone to a number of microbial attacks. Their immune systems are also being introduced to many new harsh environments. Such factors contribute to often swelling of lymph nodes in children. In most cases, this is not a condition to get alarmed about. It usually resolves on its own.
Thyroglossal duct cysts
Thyroglossal duct cysts form irregular masses on the neck and are very common in younger years of development. The lumps occur after accumulation of the leftovers that remained when the thyroid gland was being formed.
These cysts are forms of birth defects. They develop after one of the branchial clefts fails to obliterate as required in normal embryonic development. Branchial cysts can be resolved through surgery.
Lumps due to some of the causes identified earlier can also occur in children. To avoid the element of surprise, it is best to get a lump on the neck of your child examined by a doctor.
Treatment for lumps on neck
Swollen lymph nodes resolve on their own, once the cause of the swelling has been eradicated. To ease the pain, you can try cold compressing with ice.
Itchy, irritated and painful inflammations can be managed with steroids and antihistamines. Your doctor will advise for or against them where necessary.
Cancerous lumps are treated through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Malignant lumps are more treatable if noted early enough. This is why patients are always advised to report cases of lumps to their doctors the soonest they can. Common signs of malignancy include hard lumps, continuous changes in the appearance and size of the lump, swollen lymph nodes, loss of weight, headaches, voice hoarseness and appearance of other lumps elsewhere in the body. For example, a hard lump in the breast due to cancer can be accompanied by another one under the chin, which will in turn prompt swelling of lymph nodes in the armpit, groin and throat. It is a long chain of symptoms and triggers.
Antibiotics and antiviral medications will be considered for treatment of lumps on neck caused by infections. The correct prescription will depend on the severity and cause of the infection.
At home, lumps on neck can be managed through self-care measures and home remedies. Self-care measures involve learning the possible causes of the lumps and keeping away from them. Home remedies such as turmeric, tea tree oil, aloe Vera and garlic can be used to prevent infections, ease pain and reduce inflammation.