What's up with this lump in my neck?
June 28, 2007 7:58 AM   Subscribe

I recently noticed what appears to be a slightly swollen (pea-sized) lymph node on the left side of my neck, about halfway up the neck. I first noticed it about 5 days ago. I can feel another node next to it, but on the right side of my neck, I can feel only one node in the same place. I don't have any other symptoms that might suggest lymphoma (itching, fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss). The swollen node does not feel hard or fixed, and it hasn't changed size. Is there cause for concern? I do have a blemish that I've sort of been picking at on the left side of my neck, so could that be the cause of the swollen node? I guess it's possible that this node has always been there but I haven't noticed it before. I do have hypochondriac tendencies. I'm 26 and had mono about four years ago.
posted by zembla3 to Health & Fitness (23 answers total)
I think assuming it's some form of cancer is going overboard. Do you know for a fact these are lymph nodes? Could these be nodules on your thyroid gland? Also, your lymph nodes can become inflamed due to infections - they are part of your immune system. Really the best way to put your mind at ease is to go to the doctor. There are too many possibilities for anyone to be able to tell you what's inside your neck.
posted by tastybrains at 8:06 AM on June 28, 2007

You know who would know what that is? Your doctor.

If you're worried, then go see him / her.

Even hypochondriacs get sick.
posted by bshort at 8:16 AM on June 28, 2007

The lymph system is part of your body's defence against illness. Swollen lymph nodes are a symptom of pretty much every illness, ever (I had two swollen nodes at the back of my skull for the entire 4 year duration of my tonsillitis, which is when I learned about them). Sometimes swelling is the only symptom. That usually means that your body is successfully fighting something off. It is pretty much meaningless without other symptoms. It quite possibly could be from picking a nearby blemish, if you've caused a minor infection. Don't worry about it.
posted by carmen at 8:16 AM on June 28, 2007

Your lymph nodes will swell up for a variety of reasons, which can include everything from allergies to viruses that have no other side effects to having a cold, not cancer. Keep an eye on it and if it doesn't go away within a few weeks, go see your doctor. But don't panic just because a few are swollen.
posted by SpecialK at 8:18 AM on June 28, 2007

I think the blemish could be the problem. I had a nasty one on my chin a few months ago, and a gland directly under it swelled to an alarming size. I went to the doctor because neither the zit nor the gland was getting better after a week or so, and he just gave me some prescription ointment. All was well again in a few days. Obviously, this lump in your neck might also be something completely different from what I experienced; either way, it's worth a trip to the doctor just to be safe, especially if it doesn't clear up in the next few days.
posted by katie at 8:18 AM on June 28, 2007

What carmen said; go to a doctor and stop overthinking this. If you have hypochondriac tendencies stop googling anything about lymph nodes and just go get it checked out.
posted by jessamyn at 8:19 AM on June 28, 2007

I just had a lump removed from my neck that was just, well, a growth. Dermatologist injected some cortisone into it and it went away in 2-3 days (this is after having the damn thing for a couple of years). It could be nothing; it could be something serious; or it could be something not serious but that might end up being annoying. Ask a doc if it stays around for more than a few days.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:37 AM on June 28, 2007

Go to a doctor and don't worry about it unless you get told something to worry about. I had a very similar set of lumps that didn't go away, and eventually through my GP managed to get a hospital appointment to have them biopsied. I spent the 4 months in between in an absolute panic about the possibility of lymphoma. It turned out they were a reaction related to skin pigment and were completely harmless. (They're still there, not doing anything!). But my point is I spent 4 needless months worrying myself silly. Don't be me.
posted by greycap at 8:54 AM on June 28, 2007

lumps are never good (they're benign at best), and are also never easily diagnosable (especially over the internet). get thee to a doctor.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 8:56 AM on June 28, 2007

I am not a doctor. I am, however, a flaming hypochondriac. I'm going to go against the grain here and say that a movable, pea-sized lymph node is probably not in and of itself a reason to see a doctor. If other symptoms present themselves, or if the lymph node grows or changes, see a doctor. In the mean time, waiting and seeing is probably safe, whereas running to a doctor for reassurance may set you up for a cycle of ever-increasing hypochondria-induced panic followed by trips to the doctor for reassurance that will be shorter and shorter-lived with each incident.

Again, this is not medical advice in the least.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:58 AM on June 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Anecdote: I've got two fairly swollen lymph nodes on my neck and under my chin that have been around for maybe eight years. They're soft and moveable, just biggish. I've been to an Ear Nose and Throat doctor who was totally unconcerned about them. He says it just happens, sometimes, and in the absence of other symptoms, it's not a big deal. As other people have said, mine also swell with allergies, skin infections, and everything else.

So, go to the doctor if you want, it will probably make you less concerned. But don't stress out about it. Stop googling, stop touching it, and stop worrying.
posted by robinpME at 9:27 AM on June 28, 2007

Get thee to a doctor
posted by KokuRyu at 9:29 AM on June 28, 2007

SpecialK, you are absolutely wrong; an enlarged lymph node can be the presentation of a lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes and immune cells.

Zembia3, you're right to note that you have no other symptoms, and that your picking at it could have inflamed the node more. We can't see you or feel the node, so why not go to a doctor? You'll get much more information and/or piece of mind than asking strangers with no medical training.

Is it probably nothing? Yes, but no one can say that for sure.

[I am not a doctor, I am not your doctor, you are not my patient, this is not medical advice, just my own opinion.]
posted by gramcracker at 9:33 AM on June 28, 2007

It sounds an awful lot like the subcutaneous cysts I've had to me. Mostly harmless, but gross. Confirm with a doctor.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:52 AM on June 28, 2007

A relative of mine found a pea sized lump just under her jawline. It turned out to be something inside her salivary gland. An accumulation of salivary minerals, or something. Anyway, her doctor advised sucking on a slice of lemon, to stimulate the salivary glands, to see if this would push it out.

It didn't come out, and she had to have it removed surgically, but you can't even see the scar now.

posted by Solomon at 10:07 AM on June 28, 2007

my Dad had a little bump on his neck and his doc said it was nothing. Flash forward 2 years and i got him different dr. In his first physical she found it and said- hey- normally nothing but since it's on your neck it COULD mean something.
She checked and it was lymphoma. Good news- pretty treatable - even in it's worst stages.
Might as well get it checked out- even tho it's probably nothing.
Good luck.
posted by beccaj at 11:14 AM on June 28, 2007

I've been through the same thing as the submitter, though relatively smaller and on the back of the neck. I had a biopsy done on it and it turned out to be beneign. If it doesn't seem to go away, surgery is an option, though I wouldn't recommend getting into that mindset before consulting your doctor first for possible injection-treatments...mainly since the surgery will most likely leave a scar.
posted by samsara at 11:42 AM on June 28, 2007

I get that all the time, particularly when I have a canker sore. The lymph nodes in my neck will swell up to quite an impressive size, really, and ache a little if I press on them.

I'd give it at least a week before hitting the panic button.
posted by Malor at 11:44 AM on June 28, 2007

I'm another one who had one swell up on my neck when I was SEVENTEEN - almost 20 years ago - and it's still there. A visible lump. I can tell you exactly what a doctor is going to do with a soft, mobile, enlarged lymph node, since I had this one checked out 3 times. Feel it, fish around for causes (infections of one sort or another), tell you to come back if it doesn't go away after a few weeks or gets bigger. Yes, I know, but what if it's a TUMOR?! Hey, go ahead, go to the doctor and pay for the same advice: quit picking, give it a few weeks, make an appointment if it is getting bigger. Wow, I'm glad I'm not a hypochondriac any more.
posted by nanojath at 12:01 PM on June 28, 2007

(IAAD but IANYD.) Give it 3 weeks. If they haven't gone away or substantially shrunk, go to your doctor. He or she will then order some blood tests (cell count) and a chest x-ray and refer you for a biopsy.

The majority of these things derive from some (usually viral) infection; a nonneglible small fraction are lymphomas in adults.
posted by neuron at 12:12 PM on June 28, 2007

I've got one of those too. Had it for years, got it checked out when I was a teenager and the doctor said not to worry about it.

But in your case it's probably cancer.
posted by electroboy at 12:21 PM on June 28, 2007

It's probably nothing, but I would recommend you see your doctor. I have a lump under the skin on my jaw, and I've had it for years. The doctor always says that since it's movable it's a cyst. However, my good friend had a lump near her ear and once it was biopsied it was lymphoma. It is very treatable and she is fine now. Two different lumps with two completely different outcomes. It's just hard to know unless a doctor sees it.
posted by la petite marie at 6:29 PM on June 28, 2007

Highly unlikely, but maybe get your thyroid checked when you see your doctor too. I am definitely leaning toward a randomly inflamed lymph node or a cyst, though.
posted by RobotHeart at 8:19 AM on June 29, 2007

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