Neck Lumps and Bumps

Authored by Dr Mary Harding, 05 Jul 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Hannah Gronow, 05 Jul 2017

Neck lumps and bumps are common and they have numerous possible causes. They may arise from the skin or from structures underneath.

Lumps in the neck are extremely common. The tendency on finding a lump is to worry that it might be cancer. In fact, thankfully, the vast majority of neck lumps are not cancer, particularly in children and younger adults.

By far the most likely cause of a neck lump is a swollen lymph node, also known as a lymph gland. There are more than 100 lymph nodes in your neck! Most of the time you don't know they are there and you can't feel them. If you get an infection, or inflammation, they become enlarged as they are part of the mechanism by which your body reacts.

Should I be concerned?

The only way to be sure your lump isn't anything to worry about is to visit the doctor and get it all checked out. As a very broad rule, if it is soft, it is less likely to have a worrying cause. If it goes on its own, or comes and goes, it is also less likely to be anything serious. If it is red or very tender, it might well be an infection and it may need antibiotics. The most worrying types of lumps tend to feel very hard, solid or craggy, and have gradually grown over a period of a very few weeks.

You will need to see your doctor for any lump which sticks around, but if you have any of the following symptoms in addition to the lump then do so as soon as possible:

  • Losing weight without trying to.
  • A change in your voice (such as a hoarse voice) for more than three weeks.
  • Night sweats.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Feeling out of breath or having difficulty breathing.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • A persistent feeling of tiredness.
  • Bruises you can't explain.

Further reading and references

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