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Evaluation of a neck mass in adults

Daniel G Deschler, MD, FACS
Joseph Zenga, MD
Section Editor
Marvin P Fried, MD, FACS
Deputy Editor
Wenliang Chen, MD, PhD


A new neck mass is a relatively common head and neck problem in patients presenting to physicians. There often are no associated symptoms other than the recognition of a new "lump" noted incidentally on palpation while grooming or noticed by another individual. The mass may be the only manifestation of a serious and potentially malignant pathology, especially in the adult population.

Evaluation of the neck mass must be approached in a thorough and disciplined manner. A thorough history and physical examination are essential first steps in the evaluation [1,2]. This will narrow the diagnostic possibilities and help determine the appropriate next diagnostic steps.

The diagnostic approach to evaluation of a neck mass in adults will be reviewed here. The differential diagnosis in a patient presenting with a neck mass is often extensive, which is discussed separately. (See "Differential diagnosis of a neck mass".)

Specific disease entities in adults that may present as a neck mass are discussed in separate topics:

(See "Thyroglossal duct cysts and ectopic thyroid".)

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Dec 04, 2017.
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