Head and Neck Lumps are common growths or tumours that present in the head and neck region in Singapore. They can be benign or cancerous and can develop for many reasons.
Common head and neck lumps include thyroid lumps and enlarged lymph nodes. It is key to monitor a head and neck lump to determine if it is an abnormality. This is because lymph nodes can swell due to infections such as when you experience a cold or a flu. In these cases, head and neck lumps are not a cause for concern.
Head and neck lumps are common amongst Singaporeans. Every year, at least 800 new cases of head and neck cancer due to head and neck lumps are recorded in Singapore.
It is important to check for the difference between a benign and malignant (cancerous) head and neck lump. When a head and neck lump is cancerous, it can feel like a hard and immovable lump that is much larger than usual. Otherwise, head and neck lumps could be a sign of an enlarged lymph node. These lumps are usually soft and round, unlike cancerous head and neck lumps.
While the swelling of an enlarged lymph node may subside in a matter of days, its presence could also indicate head and neck cancers such as mouth cancer and salivary gland cancer. Thyroid cancer is also another type of head and neck cancer that begins with a lump in the neck.
Head and neck lumps are typically painless. They can be found in the neck, in the throat or in the mouth. Symptoms usually do not occur until the lump becomes large enough to affect the quality of your life.
Benign head and neck lumps can cause pain if they exert pressure on nerves in the head and neck. Otherwise, they do not spread to surrounding tissues as they are not cancerous. Benign head and neck lumps include cysts and other small masses found in the salivary glands and thyroid.
Malignant head and neck lumps may not be painful unless the lump begins to grow in size and affect eating and speaking. A common type of malignant head and neck lump is a lump that indicates thyroid cancer.
Singaporeans who frequently consume alcohol and have a habit of smoking are at risk of developing head and neck lumps. Those who do not practice good oral hygiene are also at risk as bacteria growth can lead to cell changes which in turn leads to the formation of head and neck lumps.
Working in an environment that exposes you to irritants can also leave you susceptible to head and neck lumps. Irritants include dust and strong fumes as well as radioactive chemicals in the air that cause head and neck lumps due to repeated exposure.
Sexual contact can put you at risk of HPV, which causes head and neck lumps if care is not taken to prevent the spread of the disease. Depending on the strain, HPV is able to cause head and neck cancers such as oropharyngeal cancer.
Head and neck lumps are diagnosed through a physical examination by your ENT doctor. He or she will feel your neck, lips, cheeks and inside of your mouth for any lumps and to also check if it is hard or soft. You should also inform your doctor of any history of genetic disorders or lifestyle habits that may have caused a head and neck lump.
Head and neck lumps can also appear in MRI and CT scans even if they have been carried out for unrelated conditions. When found, your doctor may carry out a biopsy test to detect any signs of cancer or other abnormal cell changes present in the head and neck lump.
Head and neck lumps can be treated in Singapore through surgery. In cases where the lump is cancerous, surgery and additional treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy are recommended. This is done to prevent the spread of cancer cells to the brain or surrounding areas in the head and neck. If detected early, head and neck lumps can be treated primarily through one method such as surgery or radiotherapy.
If the cause of a head and neck lump is a viral infection, antibiotics will be prescribed to alleviate the swelling of an enlarged lymph node. You will also be expected to have ample rest in order to get rid of the infection.