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.