You’ve found a lump on your neck. It’s likely no one is excited about this prospect but is it cause for immediate concern? Fortunately, the answer is usually “no,” but there are some occasions when growth demands more investigation. The trouble is, which is which?

There are certain signs associated with both harmless and potentially dangerous lumps, and today we discuss some of the differences. The safest course of action is to have any unusual growth examined by a physician at your most convenient Lakeshore Ear, Nose, and Throat Center. There’s no substitute for peace of mind.

Lumps that are likely harmless

If the lump appears as a result of a specific event, such as a sports injury or overuse, there’s a good chance it’s simply a soft tissue injury that’s easy to treat at home. The time-tested RICE method — rest, ice, compression, and elevation — will usually make quick work of such a bump.

Other types of benign lumps often share some similar characteristics. Usually, they’re soft and mobile. They will move and change shape when you touch them. They’re fairly shallow, residing just below the skin in the fat layer. They’ll sometimes grow bigger and become painful with activity, but they’ll also subside with rest.

Lumps requiring a closer look

Cancerous lumps are typically hard and often pain-free in the early stages, starting up deeper in the body. Lumps that are associated with growths or sores in your mouth are also worrisome, as is any lump accompanying throat problems, such as hoarseness or trouble swallowing. Generally, any lump that’s painless is more ominous than those accompanied by pain.

Lumps at the back of the neck

The location on the neck may also give you a clue about a lump’s underlying cause.

When you lump occurring around the hairline at the back of your neck, it’s likely connected to a hair follicle or sebaceous gland problem. Most of these lumps have pimple-like qualities. Ingrown hairs are commonly a problem at sites where you regularly remove hair, such as the nape of your neck, perhaps. These can also occur under the chin for men.

Boils are also common at the hairline, particularly if the area is subjected to lots of friction and sweat, such as from an item of athletic clothing. Larger bumps could be sebaceous cysts, which can grow to large sizes when left untreated.

Lumps along the sides of the neck may be enlarged lymph nodes, the most common source of neck lumps. Usually, these accompany nearby infections, from colds or throat infections most often, but the lymph nodes can be directly infected themselves or enlarged due to infections elsewhere in the body. While cancer can cause enlarged lymph nodes, this is much less common than lumps resulting from infection.

Treating the infection causing the enlarged lymph nodes will typically make the lumps disappear. Time and warm compresses can also help if your lump is due to having a cold.

Once again, if you’re worried about a lump, contact Lakeshore Ear, Nose and Throat Center. Our team of experts can rule out or treat any serious causes of unusual neck lumps.