Head and Neck Masses

Specialized care for children with congenital and acquired head and neck masses

At C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, our pediatric otolaryngology (ENT) team offers comprehensive diagnostic and treatment capabilities for children with head and neck masses. 

Our doctors have a unique level of skill with creating treatment plans that are individually tailored to each patient for optimal outcomes.

What are head and neck masses?

Head and neck masses may occur from a variety of causes, including infection (such as enlarged lymph nodes), congenital cysts or masses that formed during development, or tumors. 

Temporary enlargement of lymph nodes related to upper respiratory illnesses is common. However, your primary care provider may recommend evaluation by a specialist to accurately evaluate the mass for precise diagnosis and treatment to ensure the best possible outcome for your child.

Children with head and neck masses are often referred to us for evaluation to diagnose the most likely cause of the mass, to consider obtaining imaging of the mass, and to determine if surgery will be needed to biopsy or remove the mass.

Our team offers expertise in the full range of congenital and acquired neck masses, including both benign (non-cancerous) and malignant tumors, such as:

  • Congenital cysts/masses:
    • Thyroglossal duct cyst
    • Branchial cleft cyst
    • Nasal dermoids/nasal gliomas
    • Teratomas
  • Acquired masses
    • Dermoid cysts
    • Pilomatrixoma
    • Benign tumors such as neuromas
    • Enlarged lymph nodes, either due to infection or due to suspected malignancy such as lymphoma, neuroblastoma, carcinoma, or sarcomas
    • Thyroid enlargement or thyroid tumors
    • Tumors or masses of the parotid and other salivary glands
  • Vascular lesions such as lymphangioma or hemangioma

We collaborate closely with our colleagues in a full range of specialties to provide multidisciplinary care for children with head and neck tumors, including pediatric oncology, neurosurgery, facial plastic surgery, radiation oncology, and radiology.

Diagnosing head and neck masses

An accurate diagnosis is the one of the single most important aspects of creating an effective treatment plan for your child.

Our team of pediatric otolaryngologists specializes exclusively in evaluating and treating children with ear, nose and throat conditions, including head and neck masses.  The examination process generally includes a careful physical examination of the head and neck, and may also include other diagnostic exams including:

  • Endoscopy to examine the inside of your child’s nose and throat using a small, flexible scope
  • Ultrasound, MRI, and CT scan to determine the size and characteristics of the mass
  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy of the mass to be evaluated  by an experienced pediatric pathologist
  • Sedation or general anesthesia in coordination with pediatric anesthesiology, if necessary

Treatment of head and neck masses

Because our otolaryngologists specialize exclusively in treating children, we are able to offer a unique level of expertise in designing treatment plans that are customized to each individual child.  Treatments are determined by the individual diagnosis. 

Malignant, or cancerous head and neck masses may be treated by some combination of radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery.   We collaborate closely with our colleagues in pediatric oncology, radiation oncology and neurosurgery, as well as U-M’s adult Head and Neck Surgery program, to provide comprehensive care for these children.

Benign neck cysts and masses may be treated with medications, or your otolaryngologist may recommend surgery to remove the mass.  Our broad expertise with advanced surgical techniques allows us to preserve function and appearance for our patients while ensuring optimal outcomes and precise mass removal.  Some of the more innovative surgical techniques we offer include:

  • Sialoendoscopy to evaluate and treat diseases of the salivary glands
  • Intraoperative monitoring during surgery to offer enhanced precision during mass removal and preservation of nerve function, such as recurrent laryngeal nerve electrophysiologic monitoring during thyroid surgery

Our otolaryngologists also have extensive experience with surgery of the thyroid glands. 

Take the next step:

Schedule an appointment by calling us at 734-936-8051.