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A head or neck mass may be triggered by a variety of causes, including infection, tumors or cysts or masses formed while in the womb.
Conditions related to pediatric head and neck masses include:
Symptoms of a branchial cleft anomaly include:
The most common symptoms of a thyroglossal duct cyst are:
The main symptoms of enlarged lymph nodes include:
Depending on the cause of the enlarged lymph nodes, your child may also experience:
Symptoms of a neck abscess can include:
Symptoms of head and neck cancer include:
Your child may exhibit additional symptoms based on where the tumor is located. Symptoms of cancer of the oral cavity include:
Symptoms of cancer of the pharynx include:
Symptoms of cancer of the larynx include:
Symptoms of cancer of the paranasal sinuses and nasal cavities include:
Symptoms of cancer of the salivary glands include:
Many of the above symptoms occur with much more common, less severe conditions, so it is important for your child to be evaluated by a doctor in order to accurately diagnose head and neck cancer.
To diagnose a head or neck mass, a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist will perform a physical exam and review your child's medical history and current symptoms to narrow down the cause of symptoms.
A branchial cleft anomaly can be diagnosed using the following exams and tests:
A thyroglossal duct cyst can be diagnosed using the following exams and tests:
Enlarged lymph nodes can be diagnosed using the following exams and tests:
A neck abscess can be diagnosed using the following exams and tests:
Head and neck cancer can be diagnosed using the following exams and tests:
If your child has a branchial cleft anomaly accompanied with signs of infection, the doctor will likely prescribe antibiotic medicines to fight the infection. The doctor may also need to drain fluid from the cyst to reduce swelling. In some cases, surgery may be needed to prevent future infections. This surgery is usually an outpatient procedure performed under general anesthesia. Recovery is relatively short, and your child can usually resume normal activity within a few days.
If your child has a thyroglossal duct cyst, the doctor may prescribe antibiotic medicine to treat the infection or recommend surgery to remove the cyst and the thyroglossal duct. This procedure is known as the Sistrunk procedure.
If your child has enlarged lymph nodes, treatment will depend on the underlying condition causing the condition. If the swollen lymph nodes are caused by a bacterial infection, the doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotic medicine. If they are caused by certain rheumatologic conditions, such as lupus or arthritis, the doctor will treat that underlying condition. If the swollen lymph nodes are caused by cancer, the cancer will need to be treated with surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.
If your child has a neck abscess, the doctor may prescribe antibiotic medicine to treat the infection. Depending on your child’s specific condition, the abscess may need to be drained through surgery using a needle. This procedure may require hospitalization.
The treatment of head and neck cancer is based on the location of the tumor, stage of the cancer and your child’s overall health. The doctor may recommend surgical removal of the tumor and chemotherapy or radiation therapy to shrink the tumor.
Visit the trusted websites below for more information and support for pediatric head and neck masses.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.