Lump Under the Chin: Should I be Worried?

Written by: Lukas Harnisch-Weidauer

Finding a lump under the chin or in your neck can be concerning, but these lumps are usually harmless. Most of the time, they’re caused by swollen lymph nodes triggered by an infection.

Lumps can be firm or soft, painful or not, grow slowly or rapidly. The type of symptoms you experience can help your doctor determine whether to be concerned.

What are the possible causes of a lump under the chin?

A lump under your chin or in your neck is most commonly caused by a bacterial or viral infection. These lumps are often called reactive lymph nodes, and they usually indicate that your immune system is fighting an infection. Common infections include colds, the flu, sinus and ear infections, tooth or gum infections, and strep throat. A reactive lymph node is typically squishy to the touch, moves around in your neck, and can often be painful. They usually go away when the infection stops or is treated.

Cancer can cause swelling if it is affecting a nearby area like the mouth, throat, sinuses, thyroid, or salivary glands. A lump in the neck may also represent a metastasis of a cancer in another organ to the lymph nodes of the neck, or primary cancer of the lymph nodes (lymphoma). Cancerous lumps are also usually hard to the touch and aren’t painful.

When to see a doctor

There are several warning signs to look out for in an unexplained lump or bump under the chin. You should see a doctor if:

  • The bump is growing or continues to grow despite treatment of a presumed infection
  • It has been present for more than two weeks
  • It feels hard or is immobile
  • You are experiencing unexplained weight loss, persistent ear pain, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, voice changes, bleeding from your throat or mouth, sores in your mouth that won’t go away, fevers, or night sweats

How will a doctor determine if a lump is cancerous?

A physician will most likely refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist (an otolaryngologist, also known as an ENT) who will know examine you and determine if any further testing is necessary. An otolaryngologist may send you for scans — an ultrasound or CAT scan — and may obtain biopsies of the lymph node or any concerning areas of your mouth or throat. Some biopsies may be performed in the office using a needle to obtain tissue from the lump. Others may require surgery under anesthesia.

It can be frightening to find a new lump on your body. Rest assured that a medical professional can help you determine the cause of any changes to your body and help develop any treatment plans if needed.