When you notice a lump on the side of your neck, the most important thing to do is not to panic. Before making any assumptions, it is essential to visit the doctor and get an accurate diagnosis. Once the doctor has identified the nature of the lump, he/she can prescribe a correct treatment or even suggest a surgical intervention. As you will see in the article below, there are numerous causes that can lead to the appearance of a lump on the side of the neck.

lump on side of neck

Symptoms of Lump on Side of Neck

These are the symptoms that can accompany the lump on the side of the neck:

  • Fever (from mild to severe)
  • Inflammation of the regional lymph nodes
  • Difficulties swallowing
  • Difficult breathing
  • State of general weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscular weakness
  • Dysphonia
  • Unexplained weight loss

Causes of Lump on Side of Neck

These are the most common causes that can lead to the appearance of a lump on the side of the neck:

  • Inflammation of the regional lymph nodes
  • Bacterial overgrowth
  • Strep throat
  • Cat scratch disease
  • Mycobacterial infection (atypical manifestation)
  • Inflammation of the tonsils (tonsillitis)
  • Inflammation of the pharynx (pharyngitis – bacterial cause)
  • Abscess at the level of the tonsils (also known as peritonsillar abscess)
  • Viral overgrowth
  • Rubella (German measles)
  • Herpetic virus infection
  • HIV infection/AIDS
  • Inflammation of the pharynx (pharyngitis – viral cause)
  • Mononucleosis
  • Other causes
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Oral neoplasm
  • Leukemia
  • Grave’s disease
  • Goiter
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Food allergy
  • Medication (side-effect)
  • Drug abuse
  • Other allergic reaction
  • Enlargement of the salivary gland
  • Infectious conditions – mumps
  • Salivary duct stones
  • Infection of the salivary gland
  • Cancerous growth at the level of the salivary gland.

There are also a number of risk factors that have to be taken into consideration. For example, people who are constantly exposed to substances such as asbestos or wood dust, are at increased risk for cancerous growths (head and neck – occupational hazard). Chronic smoking and alcohol abuse are two of the most important risk factors but fortunately these can be easily eliminated.

Pictures of Lump on Side of Neck

lump on side of neck pictures
lump on side of neck pictures 2


These are the most common methods used for the diagnosis:

  • Medical history of the patient
  • When did the lump appear for the first time
  • Other symptoms that are present
  • Current and past treatments (including surgical interventions)
  • Pre-existing medical conditions (especially related to the salivary gland)
  • History of cancer
  • Medical family history (inherited conditions)
  • Physical examination
  • Palpation of the lump
  • Assessment of color and level of firmness (soft or hard)
  • Is the lump mobile under the skin or does it remain fixed
  • Identification of other physical symptoms
  • Heart and lung auscultation
  • Temperature measurement
  • Lab tests
  • Complete blood count
  • Leukocyte levels (increased – suggestive of an infection)
  • Thyroid hormone levels
  • Salivary gland function – citric acid test (stimulation of saliva flow)
  • Imaging studies (X-ray, CT scan, MRI)
  • Often used for the confirmation of the diagnosis.


These are the treatments recommended for the lump on the side of the neck and the underlying conditions:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Topical or oral administration (depending on the size and cause of the lump)
  • Reduce the inflammation and provide relief from the pain
  • Recommended choices – acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen
  • In case of chronic liver disease, this medication should be administered with care
  • Antibiotics
  • Oral or intravenous administration (depending on the severity of the infection)
  • Recommended for bacterial infections
  • The antibiotics have to be taken for as long as they are prescribed, otherwise the bacteria will develop resistance to the treatment
  • Probiotic supplements are administered at the same time with the treatment, so as to maintain a healthy intestinal flora
  • Surgical intervention
  • Aspiration – performed in the situation that the patient presents an abscess
  • Also recommended in those who suffer from different forms of cancer (surgical removal of cancerous growth, if possible)
  • In case of cancer – alternative treatments include:
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy.


These are the remedies you can consider for the lump on side of the neck:

  • Heat application (warm compress) – faster and more efficient healing
  • Physical rest
  • In case of problems related to the salivary gland – gargling with saline solution (disinfectant properties), lemon juice placed on the tongue (so as to stimulate the flow of saliva and ensure the necessary moisture at the level of the oral cavity); the massage of the salivary gland can bring beneficial results as well.

When should you consider going to the doctor?

In the situation that you are experiencing sudden, unexplained weight loss, you should consider going to the doctor. The same goes for when you have difficulties breathing or when the lymph nodes in the neck area are seriously swollen. If they are hard or tender to the touch, then you should visit the doctor as soon as it is possible. Remember, if you are suffering from a form of cancer, the sooner the diagnosis is made and the treatment started, the better your chances of survival are going to be. If the inflammation of the lymph nodes lasts for more than one month and if you have constant fever, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment.


The prognosis is less positive in the situation that the lump turns out to be of malignant nature. After the removal of the lump, the patient will have to undergo radiation therapy or chemotherapy, in order to eliminate all of the cancerous cells from the body. In general, if the lump is caused by a bacterial or viral infection, the adequate treatment will guarantee a positive prognosis.In conclusion, it is important to understand that the lump at the side of the neck can be a cancerous lesion. In the situation that you have such a lump and it does not disappear within six weeks, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment with an ENT specialist. This medical professional can be the only to confirm whether the respective lesion is of benign or malignant nature.

Dec 11, 2015
Diseases and Conditions

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