Congenital Neck Masses
A number of masses may develop in your child’s head or neck; these masses may also be called growths, tumors, lumps or bumps. While some head and neck masses are cancerous, many are not. It is important to see a physician if any abnormal bump or lump persists for more than two weeks. If a cancer is present, early detection provides the highest chance of successful treatment.
What Causes Neck Masses?
There are numerous causes of head and neck masses:
Enlargement of lymph nodes
This is the most common cause of new neck masses. Lymph nodes, which are part of the immune system, can enlarge when the body rallies to fight an infection. When the infection recedes, lymph swelling subsides as well.
Benign masses do not spread to surrounding tissue and are not cancerous. Nevertheless, benign masses can be serious if they impact nerves or exert pressure in the head and neck, and are often removed surgically. In children, these can include:
- Cysts (most common and include Branchial Cleft, Dermoid and Thyroglossal Duct Cysts)
- Vascular masses (See Vascular Malformations)
- Salivary gland masses (extremely rare)
Fortunately, cancerous pediatric head and neck masses are extremely rare! When they are a concern, the most common is Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which can show up as a mass in the neck. Our qualified ENT specialists can help you ease your concerns about this diagnosis and will take great caution and care in determining whether your child’s neck mass is anything to be worried about.
When should I take my child for an evaluation with an ENT specialist?
If your child experiences any of the following symptoms:
- 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 their voice including hoarseness that persists 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.
- Unexplained weight loss.
A simple examination of some masses may allow a physician to determine their cause based on location, size and consistency. In other cases, additional tests may be required. These tests can include:
- MRI: It uses a magnetic field rather than x-ray radiation.
- CT Scan: This is a very quick but detailed scan that can be useful in locating the size and depth of a neck mass. Injections of an iodine dye contrast material may be recommended to enhance the mass’s visibility during CT scans.
- Biopsy: A sample of tissue is taken and examined under a microscope to determine the diagnosis. In younger children, it is recommended this be done under some anesthesia to allow them to be still and ease discomfort and fears associated with these minor procedures.
Treatments are tailored according to the cause of the mass. Benign neck cysts and masses are usually removed by surgical excision to address symptoms and further cosmetic problems. Head and neck cancers may be treated by some combination of therapies, depending on their nature, but they typically also require a consultation with an oncologist (cancer specialist).
Call DeFatta ENT & Allergy at (715) 828-2368 for more information or to schedule an appointment.