You’ve found a lump and you’re not sure if it’s something innocent or if you should be worried - that’s human nature.
But the only way to free yourself from worry is to get it checked by a doctor. Before doing so, you may find it helpful to take a closer look at the lump and consider these questions:
If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then your neck lump is less likely to be anything serious. However, you should still get it checked by a doctor.
A swollen lymph node (sometimes called a lymph gland) is the most common cause of a neck lump.
Lymph nodes are naturally present in your neck - you just can’t feel them most of the time. But if you’re fighting an infection, such as a cold, ear infection, tonsillitis or glandular fever, they can swell in size as your body fights the infection.
This is normal and the swelling should go down once the infection gets better. If the swelling doesn’t go down, you should get it checked by a doctor.
A neck lump can be caused by many other things, including:
The exact location of a neck lump can hold clues about its cause. For example, a lump caused by a swollen thyroid gland will usually appear on the front of the neck.
A lump on the side of the neck often suggests a swollen lymph node, which may be caused by an infection.
How a lump feels can also say a lot about its cause. Lumps in or just below the skin may be due to a cyst - a fluid-filled lump that feels like a pea under the skin.
If the lump is hanging off the skin and looks like a wart, it may be a wart or a skin tag.
If you’re not sure if you should see a doctor about a neck lump, answer the following questions:
If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you should get the lump checked by a doctor.
It’s even more important to see a doctor about a lump if you’ve experienced any of the following symptoms:
A doctor may ask about your symptoms and look at the lump. If they’re not sure of what’s caused the lump, they may refer you for tests.
It’s natural to worry that a lump is a sign of cancer, but try not to worry. Remember that lumps can appear anywhere on your body - not just your neck - and usually they’re harmless.
If you’re particularly worried about a lump on your neck or the lump hasn’t gone away after 2 weeks, always get it checked by a doctor.
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Neck Lump - Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders - MSD Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. MSD Manual Consumer Version. 2020 [cited 7 February 2020]. Available here.
Lumps [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2020 [cited 7 February 2020]. Available here.
Swollen glands [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2020 [cited 7 February 2020]. Available here.
Lumps and swellings - Your.MD [Internet]. Your.MD. 2020 [cited 7 February 2020]. Available here.
Skin tags - Your.MD [Internet]. Your.MD. 2020 [cited 9 March 2020]. Available here.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.