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The neck contains many vital structures such as blood vessels, nerves, glands and lymph nodes. These structures can sometimes become swollen and present with a lump.

Neck lumps can be a cause for concern because of the close proximity of vital structures to one another. You should seek medical attention should you discover one.

Associated Symptoms

Depending on the location, nature and size of the neck lump, it may be associated with some of the following symptoms:

  1. Cosmesis
    1. Some lumps may be visually prominent and draw attention to itself, especially in a thin person
  2. Pain
    1. Pain is often associated with infection
    2. It may be accompanied by a fever
    3. Sometimes a rapidly enlarging thyroid cyst or inflammation of the thyroid gland can also cause pain
  3. Breathing Difficulty
    1. A neck lump may be so large that it presses on the trachea (windpipe), leading to breathing difficulties
    2. Tumours can arise from within the larynx (voicebox) and obstruct the airway
    3. These tumours often spread to the cervical (neck) lymph nodes
  4. Swallowing Difficulty
    1. Similarly, large thyroid swellings can compress the oesophagus and cause dysphagia (swallowing difficulty)
    2. A tumour within the hypopharynx (lower throat) can obstruct swallowing
  5. Voice Change
    1. The recurrent laryngeal nerve (nerve that supplies the larynx) is vulnerable to invasion by malignant tumours arising from the thyroid gland. A primary tumour in larynx can also present with hoarseness
  6. Blood Stained Nasal Discharge or Phlegm
    1. This may be a sign of a tumour arising from the nasal cavity or from the back of the nose
    2. These tumours often spread to the neck
    3. Males of southern Chinese descent are particularly at risk
Diagnosis

Your ENT doctor will make a diagnosis based on 4 general conditions:

  1. Location of the swelling
  2. Age of the patient
  3. Consistency of the lump
  4. Presence of pain

To aid in diagnosis, blood tests, biopsies, scans (x-ray, CT or MRI) and physical examination may be conducted by your doctor.

Treatement

Treatment methods depend on the diagnosis, and could range from medication alone to surgery. Your ENT doctor will discuss this in detail with you to ensure that you make an informed and ideal decision.

Know Your ENT Specialist
Dr Paul Mok
Senior Consultant ENT Surgeon
MBBS, FRCS (Glasgow), FAMS (ORL)

Dr Paul Mok Kan Hwei is a certified specialist in Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery (ENT) and has had a distinguished career in public service for the past 23 years.

He cares for patients with a wide variety of ENT conditions including managing patients with nasal allergies, sinus infections, ear problems and swellings in the head and neck region. His special areas of interests are in Voice, Swallowing and managing patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea.