Neck masses can be benign or malignant (cancerous). Malignant neck masses are obviously a greater concern for patients. Malignant neck masses tend to grow more quickly than benign ones, and may be tender or non-tender. Sometimes, a malignant neck mass is a metastasis (spread) from a cancer arising in one of the structures in the neck such as the mouth, throat, or voice box. Other possible sources of cancer in the neck are the thyroid gland and salivary glands. A malignant neck mass can be a distant metastasis from a cancer that started elsewhere in the body outside the head and neck. Finally, some cancers (lymphomas) actually arise from a lymph node in the neck.
A needle biopsy of the neck mass may be done in the office or at the hospital if it requires ultrasound for guidance of the needle placement. Your physician at Suburban Ear, Nose, and Throat may also order imaging studies (CT scan or MRI) in order to assess the extent of the mass. Depending on the type and severity of the cancer, your physician may recommend surgery or other modalities such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Cancer of the head and neck is usually treated in a team approach with other specialists including a radiation oncologist or a medical oncologist.