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Paediatric Neck Masses

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Neck masses can develop in anyone of any age. Their causes can be extensive, and a host of diagnostic tests will be needed to identify why neck masses have appeared. Paediatric Neck Masses are no different. They could be caused by anything ranging from congenital lesions to malignant tumours.

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What is Paediatric Neck Masses?

Any swelling, lumps, or bumps in the neck region of a child are known as Paediatric Neck Masses. The most common neck masses in children are enlarged lymph nodes. The lymphatic system fights off infections or inflammations. When the defence mechanism of the child is triggered, it could lead to Paediatric Neck Masses.

There are three main types of Paediatric Neck Masses:

  • ● Congenital
  • ● Infectious
  • ● Other

Congenital Paediatric Neck Masses

  • Thyroglossal duct cysts (TGDCs): Common in children and contain mucous-like fluid. These are connected to the hyoid and thyroid. TGDCs are removed surgically.
  • Branchial cleft cysts (sinus tracts): Occurs when the neck musculoskeletal structure does not develop properly. They are cysts or sinuses that open into the mouth, nasal cavity, or skin.
  • Dermoid cysts: Sacs present under the skin that can get infected at a later date if let untreated.
  • Fibromatosis Colli: Most commonly found in infants between the ages of two to four weeks. Normally treated with physical therapy.

Infectious Paediatric Neck Masses

  • Lymphadenopathy or lymphadenitis: Enlargement of the lymph nodes are the most common causes of Paediatric Neck Masses.
  • Sialadenitis: Salivary gland infections can cause the glands to swell.

Other types of Paediatric Neck Masses

  • Cancer: Lymphomas and other cancers of the neck are extremely rare in children.
  • Thyroid masses: Painful swelling of the thyroid gland or the thyroid nodules at the base of the neck.

As you can see, the different Paediatric Neck Masses have different causes for appearing in your child.

What are the causes of Paediatric Neck Masses?

The various causes of Paediatric Neck Masses include:

  • ● Infections
  • ● Hormone defects
  • ● Early developmental issues in the womb
  • ● Cancer

One obstacle of diagnosing the cause of Paediatric Neck Masses is the inability of children to communicate effectively with the doctors. You should prepare a list before visiting your child’s doctor that contains:

  • ● Your child’s age
  • ● Your child’s medical history
  • ● Any recent travel or exposure to animals
  • ● How long the mass has been present
  • ● Any changes in colour, size, or firmness in the masses

You must share these details with your child’s doctor when they are examining the neck masses.

What are the Symptoms of Paediatric Neck Masses?

Paediatric Neck Masses are always symptoms of some underlying cause. You should be aware when the mass appeared and if it was accompanied by an infection. Ask your child if pain accompanies the mass.

These characteristics of neck masses can help your child’s doctor determine the underlying cause of the neck masses.

How is Paediatric Neck Masses Diagnosed?

Some Paediatric Neck Masses are easily visible, and you will see them easily. Some others can be felt when touched. Your paediatrician will always check for swollen lymph nodes or masses during routine check-ups.

Once the neck masses have been identified, your child will most likely be referred to an ENT specialist who will run a range of diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of the neck masses.

The ENT specialist might ask for different types of imaging tests such as an ultrasound or a CT scan of the neck region. In some rare cases, a part of the whole mass can be surgically removed and sent for a biopsy.

How is Paediatric Neck Masses Treated?

Paediatric Neck Masses are treated based on the cause of the appearance of the mass. Therefore, it is crucial to determine the cause of the masses. Unless the underlying cause is not addressed or treated, the neck masses in your child will not go away.

What is the outlook of Paediatric Neck Masses?

This entirely depends on the cause of the neck masses. Certain conditions like enlarged lymph nodes can be easily treated when the underlying infection is addressed. Other causes like cancer or thyroid masses will require a longer treatment plan before the mass subsides.

Risks of the Surgery

It is important to discuss treatment options with your child’s doctor, as each surgical option can cause complications. The most common and serious risk is heavy bleeding. Minor risks of the surgery include:

  • ● Pain or infections
  • ● Discomfort in the regions the surgery was performed
  • ● Scarring
  • ● Adverse reactions to the anaesthesia

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Are all Paediatric Neck Masses Cancerous?

No. In fact, very few types of Paediatric Neck Masses are cancerous or lead to cancer. Most neck masses are benign in nature. However, it is crucial that the masses are diagnosed by a medical practitioner.

Can Tumours Grow in the Neck?

Yes. Tumours can grow in several parts of the neck including the mouth, throat, voice box, salivary glands, and lymph nodes. These tumours can be cancerous or benign.

When should I Take My Child to the Doctor if They have a Neck Mass?

If the neck mass persists for longer than two weeks or is causing a lot of pain to your child, then you must consult with your child’s paediatrist or visit an ENT specialist.

How Can I Tell if a Neck Mass is Benign?

Benign masses or tumours can look and feel a variety of different ways. The only way to tell if the tumour is benign is to get the mass biopsied. Some or all of the mass will be removed surgically and sent to the lab for further analysis.

Why is a Neck Ultrasound Needed?

Your child’s doctor might recommend an ultrasound of the neck to get a closer and clear look at your child’s lymph nodes, thyroid gland, and salivary glands. This diagnostic tool is used to determine the cause of the neck masses in your child.


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