Overview of Neck Masses

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.