I noticed swelling on the left side of my neck. Does this mean I have lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops in the lymph system. About 10% of lymphomas include swelling in the head and neck. But lymphoma is not the only thing that causes swelling there. The cause of unexplained neck swelling depends on your age and what other symptoms you have. Rapid swelling and tenderness are more common in non-cancerous conditions. A mass that slowly gets bigger over time is more commonly cancerous.
Non-cancerous causes of neck swelling include cysts (fluid-filled sacs), which some people are born with, and infection of a lymph node (a small organ that is part of the lymph system), which causes it to become inflamed.
Lymphoma should be kept in mind as a possible cause of neck swelling, especially in people younger than 30 or older than 70. But in people older than 40, head or neck cancer is the most common cause of a swollen mass, especially if the person uses tobacco or drinks heavily.
You should see your doctor about any neck swelling. To diagnose cancer, a biopsy must be performed. A biopsy is a surgical procedure in which a small piece of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope. Your doctor may order a biopsy if necessary.