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What are Neck Tumors?

By Stacy Blumberg
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Neck tumors are abnormal growths of cells located on the neck of an individual. A neck tumor can be either benign or malignant. Benign tumors are non-cancerous, while malignant tumors are cancerous.

A neck tumor is different from a neck cyst. Cysts are sacs that are filled with air, fluid, or some other material. Tumors are growths of cells and are therefore not filled with anything other than the cell mass. Cysts can also be benign or cancerous, but most cysts are benign.

Symptoms of neck tumors can be obvious or subtle. Neck lumps and neck pain are obvious symptoms of tumors. Smaller tumors may not cause noticeable lumps or pain and may be more difficult to detect.

Not all neck masses or pain are caused by tumors. Swelling and tenderness in the neck can be side effects of other issues such as bruising or infection. If swelling or tenderness occurs as a result of an external injury to the neck, it is most likely not a tumor. Infections often lead to swollen lymph nodes in the neck or other areas of the body. When swelling and tenderness in the neck is accompanied by other symptoms such as a runny nose or rash, the symptoms most likely are caused by an infection and not a tumor.

Once a neck tumor is diagnosed, a doctor will typically conduct a biopsy to determine if the tumor is malignant or benign. To conduct the biopsy, the doctor will remove cells from the tumor to analyze them in a laboratory. An antiseptic is typically applied to numb the area around the tumor before the cells are removed. Biopsy results are usually available a few days after the sample is taken.

A benign tumor does not spread to other parts of the body. Benign tumors may or may not be removed. If the tumor is removed, it most likely will not grow back.

Malignant tumors are cancerous and need to be dealt with immediately. The first step once a malignant tumor is diagnosed is to see if the cancer is confined to one location or if it has spread to other parts of the body. If the cancer is only found in the neck tumor, or has spread only to the lymph nodes in the neck, surgical removal of the tumor is the most likely treatment. The goal of the surgery will be to remove all of the cancer without having to use other cancer treatment options.

If the cancer has spread to other areas of the body or cannot be completely removed through surgery, other treatment options can be pursued. Radiation and chemotherapy have been effective in reducing and killing cancerous cells. These treatments may be used individually or combined with each other along with surgery, depending on the severity and location of the cancer.

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Discussion Comments
By anon993963 — On Jan 03, 2016

I was by chance was rubbing my neck while driving and found lump. No soreness nothing but some fatigue every now and then. Well three months ago found my thyroid wasn't working properly so started meds and the doc didn't find anything else wrong to explain why I was tired.

Long story short: I went to the doc and had a sonogram, and there were not one, but two lumps. One was smaller than the other. The sonogram lady said they look like lymph nodules and blood flow which would be a tumor. I'm now waiting until Monday for my doctor to get results.

Please, if you find a lump, go to the doctor. I had no signs but the fact I happened to rub my neck in boredom while driving. Wish me luck for Monday!

By anon350061 — On Oct 01, 2013

My husband was diagnosed with a tumor like the posts above. What kind of doctor should he go see? We do not know if it is cancerous or not, yet, but it is big and I am concerned.

By anon339679 — On Jun 25, 2013

I had a CT scan done for a lump in my neck, and results showed it is a tumor. The doctors also found two other lumps, all in the same region.

I am now awaiting surgery to remove one and biopsy for the others. One of the lumps is located on the left side of my neck, just below my ear. The thing is, it's now burning and painful and the pain is going to the back of my head, and shooting up my left arm, shoulder and chest area is painful to move. Should I be worried?

By anon330089 — On Apr 14, 2013

I have seen all of your posts. I am also suffering from these throat problems, which seems like a throat cancer in every way, but they can't tell for sure whether it's cancer. It's just the dirty feeling which makes our minds crazy and our anxiety triggers it, and the pain amplifies.

The best thing to do is pray to God and ask him to help you through this time and he will be with you. With this confidence, go to an ENT or get some other tests which are required. Don't wait for it to give you much more pain inside your head and don't worry if it's a cancer or any other disease. always be bold. This dirty cancer may take our life away from us, but not our confidence. Just be brave. Everything will be normal. May God bless you all with good health. I pray to God. --yashwant

By anon324120 — On Mar 08, 2013

A couple of weeks ago I started having really painful neck and ear aches. Then, I noticed a lump on my neck and it appears to be getting bigger. I am afraid it might be a tumor; can anybody tell me how to tell what it is?

By anon300863 — On Nov 01, 2012

My partner has a lump at by the side of his Adam's apple. It has been there for two years and his previous GP sent him for a blood test and biopsy, but the results were unable to detect what it was so his GP at the time said not to worry about it.

A few months ago, he started to feel tired and put on some weight so he went to the GP he is with now and they sent him for bloods and a biopsy but the results were the same: they could not tell him what the lump was. They did another biopsy and the results are yet again the same.

The consultant can't tell him what the lump is, so they have suggested he should have it removed. My partner is very worried now as the there are risks, such as they could damage a nerve, he could end up with a facial disfigurement or even a tracheotomy. What is the likelihood of this happening and what do you think this lump could be?

By anon170595 — On Apr 26, 2011

my son is 29 and today then found a tumor on the right side of his neck above the Adam's apple. it has grown and was painful. he is on antibiotics which has helped with the pain, and he also has swollen lymph nodes in his neck as well. he has had a cold for several weeks and was feeling weak. Going for a biopsy next week. should we worry?

By googlefanz — On Jan 21, 2011

OK, this may be a really silly question, but does a benign neck tumor feel different from cancerous tumors of the neck?

I woke up this morning with a lump kind of behind my ear on my neck, and after browsing around I'm really scared that I've got a neck tumor or cancer.

So I'm thinking that it if doesn't go down in a few days, I'll go to see my doctor, but in the mean time I would just really like to know if there is some way that I could tell if this is a neck tumor, and if so, if the tumor is benign or cancerous.

Are there any tips or tricks for that? Thank you in advance for your information.

By pharmchick78 — On Jan 19, 2011

@musicshaman -- Though it's not fail proof, there are some ways that you can tell if a neck lump is more likely to be a tumor in the neck or a cyst or abscess.

OK, the firs thing you're likely to experience with a neck tumor is pain and tenderness. Once you start to feel the lump it is likely to be painful, feel swollen or tight, and may be red.

Other symptoms of neck tumors depend on the placement of the tumor. For example, if the neck tumor is pressing on the throat, then you may experience dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing along with difficulty breathing. Some people even have an altered voice because the tumor presses on their vocal cords.

Additionally, some patients cough up blood with neck tumors and may even experience seemingly unrelated symptoms like an earache.

However, like I said, this is by no means foolproof, since many of the symptoms of neck cysts, tumors, and abscesses overlap, especially depending on the placement of the object.

So, all in all, if you do have any kind of lump in your neck, it's best to get it checked out by a doctor just in case. It's always better to be safe than sorry with your health.

Hope this helps -- best of luck.

By musicshaman — On Jan 17, 2011

So what would be some of the most common neck tumor symptoms? And how do you tell the difference between the symptoms of a tumor in the neck and that of a neck abscess or cyst?

I know that there are diagnostic tests to figure out what's going on, but surely there is some difference in the way that these lumps appear? Or is there not; do you just have to go in for a biopsy before they can figure out what is going on?

Can anybody clue me in?

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