Evaluating the adult patient with a neck mass

Tara L. Rosenberg, Jimmy J Brown, Gina D. Jefferson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The objective of this article is to provide the internist with general considerations when confronted with an adult patient presenting with a neck mass. A thorough gathering of historical information and a complete physical examination are crucial in developing a differential diagnosis for these patients. Specifically, the location of the mass, its time of onset, and duration are important because of the high likelihood of neoplastic processes in patients older than 40 years. The young adult patient has an increased incidence of inflammatory, congenital, and traumatic processes as causes of their neck mass, but again, neoplasms are not out of the realm of possibility. Judicious use of imaging studies, namely computed tomography scanning with contrast, is a valuable adjunct to the physical examination. Other than infectious etiology, referral to an otolaryngologist is frequently warranted to obtain a definitive diagnosis for the development of an appropriate treatment plan, which is predominantly surgical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1017-1029
Number of pages13
JournalMedical Clinics of North America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2010


  • Adult
  • Cervical lymphadenopathy
  • Differential diagnosis
  • Neck mass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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