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Date of last update: 8/19/2017.

Forum Name: Surgery Topics

Question: lump on neck

 zero_zero - Fri Feb 11, 2005 3:18 pm

about 2 days ago, i felt a lump on my neck:

-it's about 2 inches below my left ear
-under my skin
-probably about 1cm in diameter
-it hurts when rubbed even slightly
-it feels firm

it seems like a cyst or something like that, but it does hurt, and is bothering me. should i see the doctor to check?
 Kathy C, RN - Fri Feb 11, 2005 8:10 pm

Hi Zero,
You could be describing an enlarged lymph node. Here is a site that shows a picture of where the cervical nodes are and perhaps you can tell if this is where your swelling is.


All of us have hundreds of lymph nodes scattered throughout our bodies as a critical part of our immune systems. This network of nodes functions as a powerful, intelligent filtration system to keep the insides of our bodies clean and healthy.

Tiny vessels called lymph vessels carry germs, foreign particles, and unhealthy or malignant cells to the lymph nodes, where they are trapped. Active lymph nodes enlarge as they attempt to destroy the unwelcome material.

The lymph nodes also function as schools. Lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, study the foreign material so that they can produce antibodies, killer cells, and other substances to protect the body from the threat.

Sometimes the lymph nodes are overwhelmed in the process. Our defenders can be taken over by a cancer or an infection. These enlarged nodes can become a refuge where the invaders can hide and proliferate.

When evaluating enlarged lymph nodes the first consideration is whether these nodes are localized (in one or two adjacent regions of the body) or generalized (spread throughout the body, often including the spleen -- the largest lymph node -- which is found just under the rib cage in the left upper part of the abdomen). Generalized enlarged lymph nodes suggest that the body is responding to a whole-body problem, such as an infection (bacterial, viral, or fungal), an autoimmune disease (arthritis or lupus), a drug reaction, or a malignancy such as leukemia. The infection might be very mild, or might be as serious as HIV.

Localized enlarged lymph nodes are responding to events in the part of the body filtered by those nodes. A scratch on the finger can produce swollen nodes at the elbow and /or the armpit. Minor trauma to the foot is filtered by nodes behind the knee and in the groin.

The localized nodes most often noticed are those around the head and neck. They frequently grow in response either to the mouth organisms that enter the body during teething, or to the tiny particles that get into the scalp from a baby's lying down most of the day, or to respiratory infections of all kinds (ear infections, colds, sinus infections, etc.) -- or, to some combination of these.

Much less commonly, head and neck nodes can grow from cat-scratch-fever, tuberculosis, drinking unpasteurized milk (mycobacterial infections), or eating undercooked meat (toxoplasmosis). They can also grow from an isolated malignancy, such as a lymphoma.

Many people have a sunny attitude toward "swollen glands," not believing they will really be serious. Others believe these lumps to be harbingers of doom. The truth is somewhere in between. Most of these situations turn out to be fine, but enlarged lymph nodes should be respected.

Hope this helps.
 catwhisperertm - Mon Oct 31, 2005 11:35 pm

I have an enlarged lymph node about an inch under my left ear behind my jaw. I would like to know if it is going to be serious, it is kind of hard and tender, its a little under an inch in width, any info would help.SHould i go to the doctor?

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