Painless movable bump in front of my ear - any doctors in the house?
September 12, 2016 7:34 PM   Subscribe

I have had a movable, painless bump in front of my right ear sort of on my jaw for about six weeks. I've assumed it would go away but it hasn't -- and, as far as I can tell, it has stayed the same size, about that of a pea. How worried should be?

I am trying to see a doctor ASAP. I went to a doctor a month ago and he thought it was just an inflamed lymph node and said to come back if it doesn't go away. It hasn't. I've been ignoring it expecting it to go away, and now I am going out of town and really getting nervous about not addressing it until I get back. My crappy health plan won't cover a doctor visit while I'm out of town. It can be pressed and moved, like if I press on it and move my finger up a little, it will "snap" downward underneath my finger. So it feels like I can move it a little, although I'm admittedly no expert on lumps. Not visible to the eye, can only be felt by pressing on it.

Today I looked at my throat in the mirror with a flashlight and noticed some bumps on the right side of my throat wall, not too far from the site of the bump. I don't know if these are normal, like the bumps that have always scattered the way back of my tongue, or if they are related to this issue. I don't know if they are new either because I don't normally look at my throat.

I haven't had any other symptoms. My right ear does feel clogged sometimes, like it needs to pop when you're flying, but I've had annoyances with my ears long before. About two weeks before I first noticed the lump in front of my ear, I woke up with severe jaw pain on the right side of my face, around where the lump is now. I assumed I slept funny -- it hurt to open my mouth for a couple days and then the pain went away completely. I do have TMJ issues where the right side (only) of my jaw feels like it pops in and out of position. I don't really know how to describe it, but the right side of my jaw has never felt perfectly matched up and I do catch myself just popping it in and out without thinking while I work, etc. (Saying it pops in and out sounds dramatic, maybe it's more like the jaw is rubbing up against something?) My jaw has always been like that.

I asked a question here a while ago because I had a spell of vertigo (room spinning, totally scary), which hasn't happened since. The ice pick headaches I referenced there haven't happened outside of the occurrence I described in that question either.

Any input from people with similar experiences or medical backgrounds would be greatly appreciated. (I know you are not my doctor and you are not giving me medical advice. I'm not suing anyone!) Thanks!
posted by AspirinPill to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
Not a doctor, but I have been known to watch derm videos on yotutube. Sounds like an epidermoid cyst. (Google at your own peril unless you're weird like me.) My uneducated opinion is that you're totally fine waiting until you get back. If it hasn't grown since you saw your doctor, and he wasn't worried then, I don't think you need to worry, or shell out to see a doctor sooner.
posted by supercres at 7:40 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I should note, just to be clear, that the lump isn't at the surface of my skin. You have to press on the area to feel it. If you just brushed your finger over it, you wouldn't feel it or know there was a bump there. It's a bit deep in there.
posted by AspirinPill at 7:58 PM on September 12, 2016

Also not a doc, but I have had a lump just like you're describing, except closer to my chin, my whole life. Hasn't done me any harm yet.
posted by lakeroon at 8:00 PM on September 12, 2016

I had something similar for years on roughly the same area (twixt jaw and ear), finally saw a doctor who basically said if it wasn't growing don't worry about it. I eventually got it removed anyway, they biopsied (which surprised me, since they'd projected no worries so why waste lab money?) and confirmed it was a harmless cyst.

Obviously I can't say your bump is the same but I'd definitely advise try not to stress about it at all while you're waiting for your doctor's appointment. In fact, the only reason I think it's worth seeing a doctor is to set your mind at ease a bit.
posted by mark k at 8:19 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Especially if you saw a doctor that thought this was a lymph node after physically examining you, it probably is a lymph node. I don't know how long your trip out of town is for, but enlarged lymph nodes are something that can reasonably be evaluated by a primary care physician on a non-urgent basis. (IANYD, this is not medical advice etc).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:25 PM on September 12, 2016 [7 favorites]

My aunt had a bump in the same area and it turned out to be a benign, slow-growing parotid gland tumor. Keep an eye on it. If it gets any bigger or causes pain I'd go see a doctor, even if just for peace of mind.
posted by elerina at 8:29 PM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seconding something up with the parotid gland. Since the parotid gland is a salivary gland, you can ask your dentist if you're seeing one anytime soon-- it's within their bailiwick.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:28 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I currently have a bump in the same area, it started out the size of a tiny pebble (in approx. March of 2015) and is now the size of a peach pit. It is a tumour in my parotid gland The bump has slowly but surely kept growing and won't stopped unless surgically removed. When I finally showed my GP, she made sure I walked out of my appointment that day with a referral for an ultrasound and it has gone from there. I have a consultation with a surgeon next week to have a FNA biopsy done and to get my surgery scheduled. Please get a 2nd opinion just to be on the safe side, the lymph nodes and salivary glands are so close in your face that it is better to be safe than sorry. Best to ask a doctor as this is not an issues that a dentist would address, they work on your teeth.
posted by googlebombed at 11:59 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

IANYD. Given your description and the location, it could possibly be a pleomorphic adenoma, which is a benign salivary gland tumor - of course, all things benign have a chance of being their not-nearly-as-common malignant version. Another possibility is a Warthin tumor, which is a benign cystic tumor containing lymph node tissue.
Malignant parotid gland tumors often present with signs of facial nerve involvement (the facial nerve runs right through the parotid gland), so watch for signs of pain/altered sensation/nuumbness around your face, and go see a doctor.

The ear issues are most likely unrelated and don't sound worrisome, and jaw pain you describe does not really fit with facial nerve involvement. Yet another possibility is stone formation, which can block a salivary duct and lead to a cyst containing saliva build-up, basically. This one might explain the kind of pain you describe. And of course, it could also be an inflamed lymph node.
posted by and her eyes were wild. at 4:12 AM on September 13, 2016

However on the whole I second treehorn+bunny's advice. Lymph nodes are funny things and can hang around and be enlarged for long stretches of time with no problems.
posted by and her eyes were wild. at 4:24 AM on September 13, 2016

It's hard to tell apart a lymph node from a small salivary gland nodule or cyst with just palpation (touch) alone. An ultrasound is much more helpful. That said, unless you're leaving town for a really long time, a follow up consultation can be arranged for after you come back.
Based on my own history, I would get it checked out. IANYD and this is not medical advice.
posted by M. at 11:09 AM on September 13, 2016

I couldn't wait, it was worrying me too much, so I went and saw another doctor. He had trouble even finding it without me pointing it out and said it was small enough that he really doubts it's anything to worry about. He also thinks it's just a lymph node. He said I could have an ultrasound, but he doesn't think it's necessary unless it gets better -- and since my insurance blows and an ultrasound would cost me $250, I may give it a little more time. He didn't seem to think the nodules I noticed in my throat are anything either. If it doesn't go away after I get back from my trip, I may drop the $250 though since peace of mind is priceless.
posted by AspirinPill at 2:47 PM on September 13, 2016

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