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A neck mass is an abnormal lump on the neck. These masses may be large or small. Many things may cause lumps to form on the head or neck. Most of these causes are benign (harmless.) However, a neck mass should be evaluated by an ENT for accurate diagnoses and to rule out rare but serious conditions.

Read on to learn more about neck and head masses. Discover their causes, concerns, and available treatments.


Numerous conditions may lead to a lump forming on the neck. Some of these causes may include:

Enlarged Lymph Nodes are the most common cause of neck masses. Lymph nodes play an essential part in our immune system. When the body is fighting off an illness or infection, lymph nodes may become swollen. Inflamed lymph nodes typically dissipate on their own and are no cause for concern.

Infected Salivary Glands, known as Sialadenitis or “salivary stones,” may cause a lump on the neck due to inflammation of the salivary glands. Your ENT from the Ear, Nose, & Throat Center, may perform sialendoscopy (a micro-endoscope) to diagnose sialadenitis and if necessary, remove salivary stones.

Lipomas are masses of fatty tissue under the skin. These benign lumps may occur anywhere on the body, including the neck and head.

Benign Tumors: A lump on the neck may be a harmless tumor. These tumors are not cancerous and cannot spread.

Thyroid Nodules: The thyroid gland consists of two lobes that sit low in the neck (below the Adam’s apple) in front of the trachea (windpipe.) This gland plays an essential role in metabolism. Diseases involving the thyroid are common. Typically, the disease involves an overactive or underactive thyroid gland.

Sometimes a mass of tissue may grow on the glands. This is known as a thyroid nodule. Most thyroid nodules are benign. However, your ENT may conduct tests to determine the likelihood of the lump being cancerous.  Fortunately, with detection, the prognosis for most patients with thyroid cancer is very favorable.

Cancers: While rare, masses on the head or neck may be cancerous. They may be primary cancers (originating on the neck or head) or secondary cancers (tumors that originate somewhere else on the body but spread to the head or neck.) Primary cancers of the head and neck are often caused by alcohol consumption and/or smoking.


To accurately diagnose your neck mass, your doctor from the Ear, Nose, & Throat Center will take a detailed medical history and physically examine your head or neck. The examination may include endoscopy: A nasal endoscope consists of a small tube equipped with a camera. The endoscope provides your ENT with a non-invasive way to look inside your pharynx (throat) and larynx (voice box).

Depending on the initial findings, your doctor may order a biopsy of the neck mass, blood work, and/or imaging test. These tests may include X-rays, MRIs, CT Scans, or Ultrasounds.


To diagnose your neck mass, your ENT may recommend an ultrasound-guided Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA). During the biopsy, a small needle is inserted into the mass to collect a tissue sample. The collected tissue is then sent to a pathologist for examination. FNA biopsies are performed in-office under local anesthesia.


Many neck masses resolve on their own. Nevertheless, sometimes they require surgical removal. At the Ear, Nose, & Throat Center, our ENT’s specialize in performing surgery on the thyroid.

Thyroid surgery (thyroidectomy) may be performed for thyroid cancer, suspicious nodules that may be cancer, or enlarged thyroids (goiters that compromise the airway or make swallowing difficult.) Depending on the mass’s severity and location, thyroid surgery may remove all (a total thyroidectomy) or part of your thyroid gland (partial thyroidectomy.)

Other surgeries to remove neck masses may include removing the lymph nodes.


If you have a lump on your head or neck, the professionals at the Ear, Nose & Throat Center can help. Contact the Ear, Nose, & Throat Center in Stamford, CT, to schedule a consultation. Reach out online by completing the form below or call  203-409-1553 to schedule your appointment.

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