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Q: I have a lump under my chin on my neck. It was small a month ago but appears larger now. It is not painful. It is round and a little smaller than golf ball. What could this be?

A: You should always have any lump or growth that is getting larger examined by your doctor or other health professional. Statistically, the growth is most likely not cancerous, but this is always a concern when a lump is enlarging.

The most likely possibilities include:

  • A cyst, which is a fluid-filled sac. For example, children and young adults can develop thyroglossal duct cysts. These grow from noncancerous embryonic cells that persist after birth. But a cyst can occur at any age.

  • An enlarged salivary gland. If there is an obstruction in one of the salivary ducts, the saliva gland attached to that duct can swell.

  • An enlarged lymph node. Lymph nodes enlarge when they are fighting an infection. Often the person is unaware of the infection. For example, there may be an infected tooth.

Your doctor may be able to diagnose the problem just by looking at the lump. If more information is needed, he or she may order blood tests or an ultrasound. Sometimes a biopsy is needed to be certain about the cause of the lump.