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I am a healthy 28 year old female. About 6 months ago, I noticed a painful, swollen lump - about a cm in diameter - on the back of my neck just below the skull on the right side. After about a week, the lump went away. It came back and went away again about 3 months later and again 3 months after that.

After looking at some anatomical pictures of the lymph nodes of the head and neck, I'm guessing this is a swollen posterior cervical lymph node.

1. Do you think this is in fact a swollen gland?
2. If not, what else could it be?
3. What is causing the swelling and pain?
4. Should I be concerned and get it looked at by my doctor?

Thank you for your help.


Hi Mel.

Any lumps on our bodies could be reason for us to start worrying. However, they often mean nothing serious. The lump you've described could be enlarged lymph node, but it could also be cyst or fat accumulation or strained neck muscle. Other symptoms might be help you discover what the lump could be. For example, if you have fever, high temperature, or sore throat, swollen lymph node might be an indicator of an infection.

You should also check for any bites in neck or shoulder region, because insect bites, especially spider bites could cause swelling of lymph nodes. I had a problem with swolle lymph node on the back of my head once, when I had really severe virus infection. I would suspect that lump you have is the same swollen lymph node I had.
But, you shouldn't leave this on assumptions. You should make an appointment with your doctor, which will give the right diagnose and treatment.

Good luck.