Neck Lumps and Cysts – Are They Dangerous?

sebaceous cyst lump in neck

This sebaceous cyst would usually require no invasive treatment.

Lumps in the neck can be caused by a wide variety of things, some of which are relatively benign and others which warrant immediate attention and can be highly dangerous. Neck cancer, blood vessel inflammation, lymph node swelling and other problems may all be at the root of neck lumps and pain and so it is extremely important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor to find out the cause.

Some lumps in the neck are benign and pose no health issue but people may get them removed for cosmetic reasons. It is important to have this done by a qualified professional in order to minimize the risk of bleeding, infection, and scarring, especially in the case of larger cysts. Clearly, no cyst should be removed without having first been properly assessed by a physician.


In rare cases, benign cysts may actually begin to put pressure on the structures of the neck, especially in babies and small children. This may lead to breathing difficulties or difficulties swallowing. Again, the removal of a benign cyst should only be performed by a health care professional. A cyst is basically a cavity lined with epithelial cells that has no outward opening nor an internal opening. Open sores are not cysts and require immediate medical attention as they can indicate serious health issues and pose a risk of infection.

Sebaceous Cysts

In some cases, sebaceous cysts may arise and these often swell and are painful but shrink again and become asymptomatic with the use of antibiotics. These are harmless cysts that result from the obstruction of sebaceous glands in the skin. These glands produce the sebum (oil) that can flush toxins from the skin and maintain skin moisture. However, where sebum production is excessive or where the gland’s duct becomes blocked the oil may back up and cause a cyst to develop.


Such cysts may simply be treated with a warm compress to open the duct, gentle cleansing and a gradual draining of the built-up fluid. In cases where there is a large cyst it may require removal involving a local anaesthetic injection and a small skin incision. This is not normally problematic because the cyst is on the surface of the skin and so no deeper tissue is involved. A couple of stitches and a couple of weeks of healing usually see the skin returning to normal, although a little discoloration at the incision site may take longer to smooth out.

If sebaceous cysts occur regularly then it is a good idea to consider the causes, such as repeated skin infections, hormonal imbalances causing excess sebum production, dehydration, or other factor. A dermatologist should be able to help you with sebaceous cysts.

Other Causes of Lumps in the Neck

Some congenital issues can lead to the development of lumps in the neck, including lymphatic malformations such as cystic lymphangioma. Skin cancer, specifically metastatic squamous cell carcinoma may be the cause of a lump in the neck, as can cystic schwannomas, and acquired laryngoceles or even thyroid issues. If you have suffered from repeated sunburns, have a family history of cancer and have noticed changes in the appearance of moles, freckles or other skin irregularities then it is essential that you are assessed by a physician. Catching skin cancer early gives you the best shot at successful treatment so don’t let lumps in the neck persist without being checked out.

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