People may develop a swelling in their neck at any age. There are many possible causes for neck lumps. The cause can vary, depending in large part on the individual’s age. The most common cause of a neck lump in children is a swollen lymph node. These lymph nodes become enlarged in response to some type of viral or bacterial infection. When the infection subsides, the lymph nodes usually will reduce to their normal size. This lymph node response also can occur in adults.
Congenital cysts refers to cysts that are present at birth, but are often too small to be apparent until they expand. There are a number of different types that can occur in the neck, as well as different regions of the neck where they may be located. Neck cysts are more commonly seen in children and adolescents, but are not infrequently diagnosed in adults as well.
A mass in the neck may represent an underlying tumour. A tumour may be a benign (non-cancerous) growth or a malignant (cancerous) one. Cancer may begin in a lymph node as a Lymphoma or spread from another region to a lymph node and thus cause it to enlarge.
A mass in the neck that persists beyond a couple of weeks requires assessment by a physician. A physical examination by an ENT/Head and Neck specialist will usually lead to the diagnosis. A biopsy and/or scan may sometimes be required to confirm the diagnosis.