Benign Neck Tumors

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A tumour is an abnormal mass of tissue that can be benign or malignant. Benign tumours can sometimes be ignored, reduced or removed. The growth of a tissue mass is the result of progressive multiplication of cell that serves no physiological function, such as a neoplasm. Many tumours are not made of cancer cells.


A benign mixed tumour is the most common tumour of the parotid gland in adults which is located in and around the mouth and throat. A Warthin’s Tumor (papillary cystadenoma lymphomatosum) occurs most often in the tail end of the parotid gland of white, middle aged males. According to Robert L. Hatch, MD, a Warthin’s tumour is the only benign tumour associated with smoking.

The most common benign neck tumour in children is the hemangioma. Hemangionas are tumours of the blood vessels and not life threatening. Richard J. Antaya, MD, claims this condition begins in the third trimester of gestation and in thirty per cent of cases the tumour(s) are present at birth. The other seventy per cent will appear in the first several weeks of life. The incidence of a hemangioma becoming malignant is extremely rare.

A lipoma is a common benign tumour of fat tissue that can occur anywhere on the body, most are under the skin. Benign nerve tumours, such as neurogibromas, schwannomas and neuromas occur most often in the upper arms and neck. Although these tumours begin as benign, they can become malignant. “See reference 3”


In most cases, there are no symptoms when the mass is benign. Most commonly, a lump is discovered while washing, shaving or scratching an itch. A physical exam most often reveals a single mass that is solid, mobile and is not tender when pushed on.


A CAT scan is nearly 100 per cent accurate in detecting a gland mass, but cannot distinguish between benign and malignant. It is mostly used to determine the size and extent of a tumour. An MRI provides a greater contrast than a CAT scan, thus it is better at determining benign tumours. A thin needle aspiration is recommended for biopsy because an incision type biopsy commonly leads to spreading of benign tumours.


Common treatment is a complete excision of the tumour with a margin of surrounding tissue along with facial nerve dissection, when necessary. Removal of the tumour is generally curative for all benign lesions.


Although some hemangiomas in children may disappear without treatment, in some cases, results of a hemangioma excision of the parotid tumour may require several grafts to repair soft tissue damage, depending on the size and location of the tumour. The most common complication is facial nerve damage.

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