What are these lumps on my son’s neck (two GPs have no idea!)

They’re about the size of a marrowfat pea, a centimetre apart, and they’re on the back of my son’s neck, just below his hairline.

I’m not worried about them, but his Mum is. Beside herself, in fact.

Our relationship works like this: when one of us panics, the other gets all stoical, logical and calm, and vice versa. And my wife went into panic mode after discovering these little growths under our seven year-olds skin during bathtime on Saturday night.

‘They’re just cysts or swollen glands, or nodes, or something,’ I tried to reassure her. ‘Nothing to worry about. They’ll be gone in a week.’

‘But he’s already had them a week,’ she said. ‘Can you get them check out? For me.’

Being a typical man, I was determined not to go to the doctor’s surgery. The last time I went there they asked me how many units I drank a week. When I told the truth, the doctor blanched and then gave me a lecture. I’m too old to be told how to live my life, so I nodded a lot and vowed never to go again, unless my leg was hanging off.

But with your kids, it’s different. You’ve got to go, you know, to be on the safe side, because, as a parent, you’d never forgive yourself if something terrible was wrong with your kid that could have been prevented if it wasn’t for your own stubborn middle-agedness.

Still, I was determined to avoid the visit at all costs, and so turned to Google, and then to Twitter, where I got lots of reassurance (thanks all) and no horror stories.

‘I still want you to get him checked out,’ my wife insisted.

So I asked my son’s head teacher, who referred me to the school nurse, who said: ‘Go and see your GP.’

FFS! Can nobody take a decision around here?

And thus, at 5pm on Tuesday evening, I took our seven year-old, accompanied by his little brother (their big sister is away on a school trip this week) and, to be fair, was seen pretty darned quickly by a very pleasant, very friendly, very young – and, ultimately – very unknowledgable female GP who had graduated from doctor college two weeks earlier.

Over the next 10 minutes, she did everything by what I imagine is the GP’s book: took my son’s temperature; made him say ‘Aaah’; looked in his ears; stethescoped his heartbeat; asked him questions;; and even weighed and measured him.

Thorough. That’s good.

When she finally got round to prodding the lumps, I thought we’d be out within a minute.

Any pain? No.

Any fever? No.

Any sign of infection? No.

Any problems with eating? No (aside from the fact his favourite food is leeks!!)

Any slump in energy? No, unfortunately.

He was as right as rain in a drought.

‘So what’s the problem?’ I asked.

‘I’m not sure,’ she replied.  ‘I need to get one of my colleagues in for a second opinion.’

At this point, I guess I should have started to worry, but I just felt irritated.

I knew there was nothing wrong with him. I KNOW there IS nothing wrong with him. And I wholeheartedly expected the £50k-plus GP to agree. But no.

So we waited. And waited. And waited for her colleague to finish with another patient who was far more likely to be suffering from something far more sinister than a couple of pea-sized lumps in their neck.

Now, 40 minutes in the company of a stranger with two frustrated lads in a room that must have been 80 degrees hot can feel quite awkward.

The doctor tried to make smalltalk with my sons, but all they could say was: ‘It’s so hot in here. When are we leaving?’

So, like an over-qualified hairdresser,  I stepped into the inane breach.

‘Finally got a bit of sunshine, eh? I can’t believe it’s rained so much. Where are you from originally?’

On and on. I was boring myself with the questions, let alone the answers.

The conversation perked  up a little when she told me she’d had her iPhone nicked from her handbag in a fancy shop in Covent Garden, which led to a few minutes of ‘What’s the world coming to’ type convo. But by and large, it was very obvious to us both than I didn’t to be there, and she wanted me there even less.

Eventually, her colleague arrived – this time a man, not much older than my son – who proceeded to do precisely the same tests his colleague had just done, before declaring: ‘I’m not sure what it is.’

‘You must have some idea,’ I suggested. ‘What about swollen glands, or nodes.’

‘Glands are the same as nodes,’ he said. ‘I think.’ Then turned to his colleague, ‘Aren’t they?’

She just smiled.

The sweltering room grew hotter with a tense silence as we all wondered who was going to speak next.

Yes, it was me.

‘So, are they dangerous? Should I be worried?’ I asked. ‘More to the point, what shall I tell his mother?’

‘To be honest,’ said the more senior junior. ‘I think we should just keep an eye on them for a week or so and if they haven’t gone by then, come back.’

‘And then what?’

‘We’ll do more tests.’

I’m in the wrong job.




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32 Responses to What are these lumps on my son’s neck (two GPs have no idea!)

  1. Oh you are so on the money with this. Last time I went to see a GP she openly Googled my symptoms in front of me. I only just managed to keep quiet, but was hardly filled with confidence.

    They ALWAYS just tell me to wait six weeks and see if it improves. It never has yet.

  2. Dazed

    Sebaceous cysts, lipomas or enlarged lymph nodes (prob not nodes though). I’d put my money on lipomas.

  3. health ed

    I asked Dr Knott – he said: “Although it would obviously be better to see and feel them ‘in the flesh’, from the picture they look like lymph nodes. Enlarged lymph nodes in this position are very common in children; they are part of the immune system and are particularly prominent after infections such as coughs and colds . Providing he is otherwise well and doesn’t have swellings anywhere else it is worth waiting a couple of weeks to see whether they get any smaller. If they don’t, further investigation would be warranted.”

  4. gahh, I don’t much like doctors, and avoid them as much as possible… I begrudgingly took my youngest to the doctors earlier in the week… not entirely sure why, because I KNEW he just had a virus, but you know when they go all lethargic and floppy and hot n unwilling to wake up, well i guess it kind of throws you sightly so i trudged to the doctors for a ‘sit and wait’ style appointment because i hadn’t had the forsite to know he would get ill at 8am so couldn’t book a proper appointment, anyway when i got in there to meet this nice chap who did simular tests on my little one as your docs did, you know listened to heart, check temp, blah blah he turned and said oh its a virus if hes no better in a week come back, if he deteriorates take him to a n e… and then turned to his notes and said oh theres not much in his medical history is there? I think he must have thought my son was some sort of miracle child who had never been ill – ever, but in reality i just don’t report to a doctor to be told he has a virus.. seems a tad pointless going to be told to monitor him, i can do that without them telling me to do that! hope the mystery lumps dissapear soon so a repeat appointment isn’t needed for you!

  5. Right I’m not being funny but you need new doctors! Ridiculous

  6. GPs work on the assumption that most things clear up by themselves after a couple of weeks at the most. All they have to do is keep you busy until then, after which you come back and say what a fabulous doctor they are.

  7. Try not to worry to much, as actually I do find that most things clear up or disappear after a short while – because we have to pay to visit the GP in Ireland, I tend to leave things like these lumps for a week or so myself before going to the GP and demanding a referral letter for a consultant x

  8. Well as you know from my good lady wife I have something very similar to this, in fact have had them for 10 years now. Had plenty of tests but nothing serious found. Just cysts that should go away at some point. If they feel kind of rubber below the surface and aren’t sore then would be very surprised if it’s a problem. Although of course I’m not the doctor here :)

  9. I’d take him to a real pediatrician, and ask for a referral for that at the GPs. If you don’t get this looked at and it’s another week of “I don’t know” it’s another week of “growing” if that’s what it’s going to do. Yes people google for symptoms because publishers aren’t making books with paper any more. It’s a resource. Before they would see you one week then have to go sift their libraries to find an answer, now they’ve got instant searchable options.

    • Gran of five

      My son now 34 often had little lumps like this when he at primary school.
      After the third lot I stopped worrying and the last time he actually saw a DR he was 10 years old. Acouple of years ago I got a letter from the surgery asking in a very roundabout way if he was still alive. It is my experience that if anything lasts more than a week then you should consult a DR, always best to get a proffesional opinion when possible.

  10. Josie

    Please…..Did you ever find out what they are? because my son has the exact same things on his leg and two Ultra-sounds later and one MRI, the doctor’s are still puzzled!!????….have your sons gone away? Have they gotten any bigger?…please respond….I’m so desperate at this point and really worried!!!! Any idea or help will help me and my son. My son is scheduled for a biopsy this Monday and the Frustration of “The WHAT IF?” is making me crazy!!

    • keithkendrick

      Hi Josie. I wrote this as a follow-up. http://reluctanthousedad.com/2012/05/11/my-sons-neck-lumps-an-update/
      My son suffered flu-like symptoms soon after the visit to the doctor, and then the lumps gradually subsided until they disappeared altogether. Eight months on he is a very happy, healthy, eight-year-old boy.
      I wish you all the best for your family.

      • Louisa

        I have just noticed a small moveable lump on the left hand side of my sons neck he is 8yrs old and has no other symptoms however did notice he was feeling hot whilst I was investigating this lump I’m going out of my mind with worry x

  11. tammy

    my 16 year old daughter has had the same thing for about a year. but now it seems to have gotten larger. no pain, no itching, no fever… I am worried though. will be finding a dr to check it out.

  12. Melissa

    I realized my son had a small lump behind his neck and in the back side of his head, can lymph nodes appear behind the head? No pain, fever or sickness. I’m really starting to get worried, so much that I almost took him to the ER when I felt them. Should I be concerned?

    • keithkendrick

      Hi Melissa, I’m not a doctor or medically trained whatsoever, so I cannot advise. All I can say is that my son’s lumps disappeared after a couple of weeks and never came back, but if you are concerned, then, yes, of course you should follow your instincts and take him to see a doctor. Best wishes.

  13. Emily

    I’m confused right up his mom? Or his nanny

  14. tiffany

    did u ever find out what they were my lil boy has the exact same thing

    • keithkendrick

      Hello. No, we never found out, but they cleared up after a couple of weeks. He is as healthy as any child now.

  15. mad6larrrks

    Hi I am so pleased that your son was OK, no than to your useless g.p lol, I am very concerned re my own son, he is now 4 n half and has a limp in neck mini egg size, maybe slightly larger. He has had blood test all OK other than slightly low iron, now I have just found a second lump near back of neck. Everything I read, as with yours, is tat the lumps goes after a short time so is 2 yrs so far normal?? An tho he has been unwell is this second lump normal too? If anyone can advise I b grateful thanx

    • keithkendrick

      I’m not a doctor or an expert in any way, shape or form, but I do think you should take him to see your GP again as a precaution and for your own peace of mind. In the meantime, this is quite an informative article http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2010/10/parents-concerned-lump-child.html
      It concludes by saying: “If the lump is small and difficult for someone else to find, the chance it represents something that needs to be urgently evaluated is probably zero. Things that make me concerned are typically blatantly obvious. In other words, I can see it from across the room. Otherwise, watchful waiting is probably going to be the safest, least invasive and most cost-effective approach to lumps and bumps on the head.”
      Best wishes to you

  16. jennifer pegg

    I am going today , to take my 15 year old for the same exact thing . I have been worried sick . She had a marble sized bump under the skin , on the back of her neck , then it just went away . It is back now , although it is much smaller , but she says it is itching really bad . Thanks for posting this , it makes me feel a little better !

  17. My granddaughter has these same lumps on her neck. Doctor evaluated several things but not conclusive but suggested a virus caused it. Fine doctors we have today that live luxurious lives by not being able to diagnose a simple lump on the side of a child’s neck to it origin. After all the medical training, years of schooling, high paying job. What the hell do they do if they cannot tell one virus from another? To me, when there is a problem on the human body that is out of ordinary such as lumps, skin rashes, etc. then a medical doctor, if they are competent, should have enough expertise and knowledge of the body that they have studied for years to know why small lumps appear under the skin on a child’s neck and give an exact reason instead of saying it might be this or that and it is most likely a virus —-with no name! Go to hell all of you quacks!

  18. elias

    I have one of this and it has been a year now, worried.

  19. sandra

    My son has had these swellings was put on medication thru a drip,and two days later calsified deposits came out of his glands under his tongue has happend twice…

  20. sulty

    Hi there ,
    i found out tonight have a lump in my neck. It hurts and so does my shoulder and head. It makes me feel sick and even had been throwing up. Got Numidia and too many white blood cells and an short of vitamin D . A couple of months i am struggling with my health and everything hurts. But my doctor doesn’t do anything for me.. Love to know what to do and what is going on in my body. Please help me or maybe somebody knows this kind of symptoms and can give me some sort of advice..thank you !

  21. Elaine

    My yr old son has one that is at the lower bottom part of his jaw. He said he doesn’t hurt, itch, anything. I just noticed it two days ago. After reading all these posts I feel alot better. I think it’s fine and will end up going away. But any thoughts on this I’d be greatly appreciated.

  22. Julie Shrive

    Did I read of these in connection to heart condition especially round the eyes? Had an MI [ heart attack 10 yrs ago

  23. Penny

    Are they painful? Is there more growing? Look up Dercums disease

  24. Savannah

    My 3yr old daughter had this exactly everything is the same..and come to find out she has lime disease..or at least that’s what they told me…how scary is that..I cried for a while and then started asking questions..now she has to take amoxicillin 3 times a day for 20 some days and then have her blood re checked..she’s had the lumps for about 3 weeks now and they haven’t got any smaller yet..I hope this helps..I know it was really scary for me to see my little angle with knots on her head out of no where and the dr were clueless at first

  25. Duha Khan

    I am 15 and I am having it right now. Like I discovered it today only and totally freaked out. I am worried because all these sites say that they are antibodies fighting cancer. Shit. I don’t know what to do. Help, anybody ?