Head and neck masses that occur in children include inflammatory lesions, congenital masses, and both benign and malignant neoplasms. The vast majority of head and neck masses in children are not cancer. They are inflammatory lesions that either resolve spontaneously or respond to appropriate medical therapy. However, if the masses persist, operative biopsy or excision may become necessary. Infections can also progress to abscess formation, requiring surgical intervention.
Congenital anomalies of the head and neck are present at birth but can remain unnoticed until later in life due to expansion or infection. Congenital lesions can also cause a draining sinus or fistula opening. These lesions are treated with surgical excision.
The Center for Pediatric Otolaryngology also manages hemangiomas and vascular malformations of the head and neck. One in three children is born with a vascular birthmark, and some of these children require medical evaluation due to cosmetic or functional concerns.
Primary Malignant Tumors
Although rare, an estimated five to ten percent of primary malignant tumors in children originate in the head and neck. In collaboration with the head and neck reconstructive team, members of the Center care for pediatric patients with head and neck malignancies, and the challenges that can arise from these tumors, including speech and swallowing difficulties. A solid neck mass with rapid or persistent growth, skin involvement, or neck immobility may be malignant and should be evaluated.