What to Expect During an Evaluation of a Neck Mass

by | Sep 25, 2023 | Ear, Nose and Throat

A mass in the neck can represent a variety of causes and developing one can be scary. It is important to seek medical care to help reach a diagnosis.

Visit for a Mass in the Neck

If you visit us at C/V ENT Surgical Group for a mass in the neck, a qualified ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist will obtain a thorough history and provide a thorough examination.

Medical History

Your visit will begin with an overview of your medical history as this is especially important for an evaluation for a neck mass.  Your medical history can provide so much information about your risk factors for different possible causes. Medical History - C/V ENT Surgical Group

The overview of your medical history will involve a discussion about your current and past lifestyle habits like tobacco and alcohol use, which are closely linked with cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, and tongue and may cause a mass in the neck. We also may ask about past injuries, surgeries, or illnesses. We’ll discuss how long you have had the neck mass, if it has changed, and we’ll ask detailed questions about any other symptoms you may be experiencing.

Physical Exam

A thorough physical examination of your head and neck is a key part of evaluating a neck mass. Your ENT will examine the neck through touch and gentle pressure (palpating) to feel for nodules, lumps, and evaluate pain and discomfort. Your ENT will also examine your ears, nose and mouth thoroughly for possible causes of your neck mass.


To look at the throat and pharynx, your doctor may perform a  laryngoscopy, an examination with a special scope. The laryngoscopy can be performed in our office with minimal time and discomfort. Flexible laryngoscopy uses a tiny cable with a scope, which is inserted down the nose. To prepare for flexible laryngoscopy, we’ll spray numbing medicine into the nose. The scope will allow your doctor to visualize the structures in the back of your nose, in your throat and examine your voice box.

Further Testing

Imaging Studies

Your doctor may order imaging studies to help with diagnosis of a neck mass. This may include:

  • Neck ultrasound: Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create images. These images help your doctor look at structures within your neck and identify the origin and characteristics of a neck mass. If an ultrasound is ordered, it would be done at an imaging center and sent back to our office for our physicians to interpret.
  • CT Scans, MRI, and PET Scans: These imaging studies may be helpful tools for your doctor to diagnose a neck mass. If your doctor orders one of these tests, they would be completed at an imaging center.

Lab Tests

Lab tests can be a helpful tool for an ENT in diagnosing certain causes of a mass in the neck.


A biopsy is a procedure in which some tissue is taken for testing, oftentimes to detect or rule out cancer. A biopsy for a neck mass is often done using fine-needle aspiration, which can be performed comfortably in-office. The area of the neck to be biopsied will be given local anesthesia to prevent pain during the procedure. Using precise ultrasound guidance, a very thin needle may be inserted into the neck to retrieve small samples that can be evaluated microscopically.

Seeking Evaluation for a Neck Mass

It’s important to seek medical advice if you discover a mass in the neck. A neck lump or mass can mean anything from common infection to cancer. The only way to get a proper diagnosis is through a qualified medical exam. Get in touch with us if you have concerns about a mass in the neck.