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Overview of Neck Masses

What are neck masses?

Neck lumps (masses) are common problems in babies and children. Some neck masses are present at birth (congenital). They result from abnormal formation that occurs in the early stages of an unborn baby's development. Many neck masses appear with an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold or sinus infection. Some are not found until they become enlarged and painful from infection. A neck mass can affect other structures in the head and neck area. But most of these masses are not cancer (benign). Cancerous neck masses are rare in young infants and children. Sometimes a mass is diagnosed as Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin disease. These are both cancers of the lymphatic system.

Your child's healthcare provider will think about many factors when diagnosing a neck mass. These include the following:

  • The child's age

  • How long the mass has been there, and if there are other masses

  • Family history of masses

  • Any past or ongoing illnesses, ear infections, or animal bites

Examination of neck masses may include:

  • Carefully looking at and feeling the child's neck

  • Finding the exact location of the mass

  • Checking for movement of the neck and the mass itself

  • Looking for swelling, redness, warmth, tenderness, drainage, or fluid in the mass

More tests may be done, such as blood work or a biopsy. These may be needed to completely diagnose the type of neck mass and see if other neck tissues and structures are affected. Treating neck masses depends on the type of mass and if there is infection. Often surgery is needed to remove the mass.

Online Medical Reviewer: Ashutosh Kacker MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2019
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