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Growths on the Head, Neck & Throat

In many cases, growths on the head, neck and throat are benign (noncancerous) and fully treatable. They can take many forms, including various lumps and swellings, warts, polyps (small, fleshy growths in moist tissue) and stones (hard blockages of ducts). Growths often originate in the moist linings and internal areas of the nose, mouth and throat, including:

  • Salivary glands. Tumors may enlarge the salivary glands, and stones may develop in the ducts that carry saliva into the mouth. Many of these growths are benign and often painless.
  • Larynx (voice box). Improper use of the voice may cause polyps or nodules to grow on the vocal cords. Polyps are soft growths and nodules are harder lumps that develop over time. These abnormalities are not cancerous, but can cause hoarseness and other symptoms.
  • Lymph nodes. Lymph nodes in the neck sometimes grow abnormally, leading to lumps or masses that can be painful and disfiguring. Growths in lymph nodes are a common cause of swelling in the neck.
  • Thyroid. This is a relatively common site for abnormal growths. Accurate diagnosis is particularly important in this area because multiple tumors can develop and must be detected and removed individually to ensure effective treatment.

A range of factors can result in growths affecting the head, neck and throat including:

  • Tobacco use (a major risk factor for tumors of the mouth and throat)
  • Alcohol use
  • Sun exposure
  • Exposure to physical and chemical irritants
  • Viruses (for example, Epstein-Barr virus may cause tumors in the nose and back of the throat).

Finding a growth on your head or neck can be worrisome, but in many cases, specialists at Indiana University Health can completely remove this abnormality. Careful diagnosis is crucial because even benign (noncancerous) tumors and other growths may come back if they are not fully removed. We have particular expertise in diagnosis and treatment of growths on the head, neck and throat. Our broad experience enables us to detect even those you may not have noticed yourself.

Patients come to us from around the state because of our expertise in diagnosing and treating masses, tumors, swellings and other abnormalities in the head, neck and throat. Part of our success is our commitment to comprehensive, patient- and family-centered care. You are part of your treatment team, helping us develop a plan based on your particular condition, needs and preferences. Your multidisciplinary team may include specialists in a variety of disciplines. We also have a tumor review board, in which our physicians meet to discuss their patients’ cases. The board focuses the attention of a number of specialists on your particular case. This provides a variety of expert viewpoints that may add insight and treatment suggestions.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Growths on the Head, Neck & Throat Treatment Information

We often remove benign tumors and other growths surgically. These abnormalities may involve the face and other sensitive areas. Our highly skilled physicians can remove growths and restore normal function and appearance. In many cases, we can remove a growth completely with little chance it will recur.

We may also use medicines to treat some abnormalities:

Surgery to remove benign growths does not usually require extensive follow-up treatment. When we have removed the growth and determined it is non-cancerous, there is no need for chemotherapy or radiation.

You may need therapy to help recover functions such as speech or swallowing after surgery. Recovery after surgery to remove polyps or nodules on the vocal cords may require speech therapy to help you learn to use your voice differently. These growths are often caused by improper use of the voice. Learning to use your voice normally helps prevent polyps or nodules from returning.

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Growths on the Head, Neck & Throat Support Services

Learning more about tumors, polyps and other growths can increase your understanding and help you work more effectively with your physician.