Head and Neck Surgery

About Neck Lumps

Background – there is a variety of lumps and swellings which occur in the neck. Some of these are listed below:

  • Epidermal cysts
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Thyroid nodules and cysts
  • Salivary gland swelling or tumours
  • Thyroglossal cysts, branchial cysts
  • Vascular malformations e.g lymphangioma, haemangioma
  • Lipoma, carotid body tumours


  • Scans of the neck may be required to better characterise swellings and lumps of the neck. These include ultrasound, CT, MRI and other specialised scans for specific types of tumours
  • Fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) – cells from the neck lump can be sampled by FNAC to give crucial information about the type of cells that make up the tumour. This information can help in the decision making about the type of treatment required. For if the cell sample from an enlarged lymph nodes shows only benign reactive features, then it may be acceptable not to remove it. If, however, there are suspicious features, then further investigation (e.g scans) or a biopsy might be needed.


  • The management of neck lumps depends on what the suspected diagnosis is, based on the clinical findings and the results of investigations (scans, cytology, biopsy, blood tests).
  • In some cases, surgical biopsy may be required to clinch the diagnosis.