What Should I Do if I Notice a Mass in My Head or Neck?

There are several causes for masses that may appear on your neck or head. If you notice a growth that lasts more than several weeks, make an appointment with an ENT. Early detection is essential if your symptoms are the result of cancer. At Charleston ENT & Allergy, our otolaryngologists can determine the cause of the mass and provide the right treatment for your condition.

Man in an outdoor setting holding the back of his neck with one hand. The image is from behind and shows the mans back and back of head.

What Are the Symptoms of Head and Neck Masses?

  • Lump in the neck persisting for more than two weeks, especially if it is not associated with a cold, flu or other infection
  • Change in your voice, including hoarseness that persists for more than two weeks
  • Growth in the mouth
  • Swollen tongue
  • Blood in the saliva or phlegm
  • Swallowing problems
  • Persistent ear pain or ear pain while swallowing—may be a symptom of infection or a growth in the throat
  • Unexplained weight loss

What Causes Head and Neck Masses?

The most common cause of neck masses is enlarged lymph nodes. The lymph nodes can become enlarged while fighting infection, and the swelling subsides once the infection is gone.

Your symptoms may also be caused by a benign mass. These include cysts, thyroid masses, vascular masses and salivary gland masses. These masses are noncancerous and do not spread to nearby tissue, but they may need to be surgically removed if they impact nerves.

A mass in the head or neck may also be a sign of cancer. These tumors are either primary, meaning they’ve originated in the head or neck, or secondary, meaning that they have spread from tumors in other parts of the body.

How Are These Conditions Diagnosed and Treated?

Your doctor will examine your head or neck mass, taking note of its location, size and consistency. Additional diagnostic tests our ENT doctor may perform include:

  • A biopsy of the tissue
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • PET and SPECT scans

Treatment will depend on what’s causing the mass. Benign neck cysts and masses are usually removed by surgical excision. Head and neck cancers may be treated by some combination of radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery, depending on their nature.

Whether your symptoms are caused by a benign or cancerous mass, our team at Charleston ENT & Allergy will create a customized treatment plan based on your individual needs. We’ll support you with specialized care throughout your entire treatment process and recovery. At Charleston ENT & Allergy, we partner with every patient because we’re always in this together.