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Neck Masses in Children

By

Udayan K. Shah

, MD, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University

Last full review/revision Apr 2022| Content last modified Sep 2022
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Neck masses are swellings that can be seen or felt in the neck.

Neck masses are extremely common among children.

The most common cause of neck mass in children is

A lymph node may enlarge for the following reasons:

Most neck masses cause no symptoms and are of greater concern to parents than to the children who have them. However, infected lymph nodes or cysts are tender and painful and may cause a fever.

Diagnosis of Neck Masses in Children

  • Imaging tests, swabs, blood tests, and tuberculosis skin tests

  • Thyroid tests

  • Biopsy

Because many neck masses are caused by viral infections and disappear without treatment, tests are usually not needed unless a mass lasts for several weeks.

A piece of the mass may be removed and examined (biopsy) to determine whether a cancerous tumor is present.

Treatment of Neck Masses in Children

  • Depends on the cause

Treatment of neck masses depends on the cause. Antibiotics are useful for infected lymph nodes and other bacterial infections. If infection is not the cause, surgery may be needed.

Masses caused by viral infections and swelling due to injury gradually disappear with time.

Tumors and cysts usually require surgery.

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