A lump under the chin is a bump, mass, or swollen area that appears under the chin, along the jawline, or on the front part of the neck. In some cases, more than one lump may develop.
Lumps under the chin are usually harmless. Most of the time, they’re caused by swollen lymph nodes. This swelling is typically triggered by an infection.
Cancer, cysts, abscesses, benign tumors, and other medical issues can also cause chin lumps. However, these causes are much rarer by comparison.
A lump under the chin may appear as a boil or abscess. It may feel soft or hard. Some lumps feel tender or even painful to the touch, while others don’t cause pain. When neck lumps don’t cause pain, they can be present for a long time before you notice them.
Read on to find out more about what causes a lump to form under the chin and how this condition is treated.
Causes of lumps under the chin
Chin lumps can be caused by the following:
Both bacterial and viral infections can cause a lump to form under the chin. Many times, these lumps are swollen lymph nodes.
Lymph nodes are part of the network of your immune system that help protect your body from illnesses. Many are located in the head and neck, including under the jaw and chin. Lymph nodes are small and flexible. They can be round or bean-shaped.
It’s common for lymph nodes in the head and neck to swell. When they do, it’s usually a sign of an underlying illness. When swollen, they can range in size from that of a pea to that of a large olive. They may feel tender or painful to the touch, or hurt when you chew or turn your head in a particular direction.
Common infections that can trigger swelling in the lymph nodes include:
- upper respiratory infections, including colds and the flu
- ear infections
- sinus infections
- strep throat
- an infected (abscess) tooth or any mouth infection
- mononucleosis (mono)
- skin infections, such as cellulitis
Many other conditions can cause lymph nodes to swell, producing a lump under the chin. These include viruses such as HIV and tuberculosis. Immune system disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, can also cause swollen lymph nodes.
If you have a lump under the chin caused by a swollen lymph node, you may also experience other symptoms, such as:
- other swollen lymph nodes, such as in the groin or under the arms
- symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, such as a cough, sore throat, or runny nose
- chills or night sweats
Lumps under the chin caused by lymph node swelling due to an infection should go away on their own. Your doctor may suggest you monitor the swelling.
Treating the underlying infection will reduce lymph node swelling. If you have an infection, you might be prescribed antibiotic or antiviral medication. Your doctor might also suggest over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to treat pain and inflammation. In severe cases, infected lymph nodes may need to be drained of pus.
Cancer can also cause a lump to form under the chin. Though cancer is more likely to affect older adults, it can appear at any age.
There are a variety of ways that cancer can cause a lump to form. For instance, a lump under the chin can form when:
- cancer is affecting a nearby organ, such as the mouth, throat, thyroid, or salivary gland
- cancer from a distant organ metastasizes, or spreads, to the lymph nodes
- cancer arises in the lymphatic system (lymphoma)
- nonmelanoma skin cancer appears under the chin
- sarcoma appears under the chin
Cancerous lumps usually feel hard. They aren’t tender or painful to the touch.
Related symptoms vary according to the type of cancer. Some warning signs may include:
- sores that don’t heal
- changes in your bladder or bowel activity
- lumps elsewhere in the body
- difficulty swallowing
- unexplained discharge or bleeding
- changes in the size, shape, and color of warts, moles, and mouth sores
- a nagging cough
- unexplained weight loss
- changes in voice
- recurring infections
When a lump under the chin is caused by a cancerous tumor, there are a number of treatments available. Your doctor might suggest chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery to remove the lump. The treatment depends on a number of factors, including your current health, the type of cancer, and its stage. Your doctor will help you understand which treatment is right for you.
Cysts and benign tumors
Other growths aren’t cancerous. These include cysts — sacs filled with fluid, or other matter — and benign (noncancerous) tumors. Benign tumors develop when cells start to divide at an abnormal rate. Unlike malignant (cancerous) tumors, they can’t invade neighboring tissues or spread to other parts of the body.
Some types of cysts and benign tumors that can cause a lump to form under the chin include:
Sebaceous cysts, lipomas, and fibromas can be either soft or firm.
Most cysts and benign tumors aren’t usually painful. They may cause discomfort, though. When a cyst or tumor grows, it can put pressure on nearby structures.
Many cysts and benign tumors don’t have related symptoms. However, if the cyst or benign tumor is close to the surface of the skin, it can become irritated, inflamed, or infected.
A number of other health conditions can lead to the formation of a lump under the chin. These include:
- salivary duct stones
- food allergies
- an injury
- insect stings or bites
- broken bones
- a fractured jaw
- certain medications
In these cases, symptoms and treatment depend on the source of the lump.
When to see a doctor
A lump under the chin should go away on its own. In most cases, treating an underlying condition such as an infection will reduce swelling.
You should see a doctor if:
- you have an unexplained chin lump
- your chin lump is growing (a sign of a possible tumor)
- your chin lump has been present for two weeks
- your chin lump feels hard or doesn’t move, even when pushed on
- your chin lump is accompanied by unexplained weight loss, fever, or night sweats
You should seek medical care right away if:
- you’re having difficulty breathing
- you’re having difficulty swallowing
Finding a lump under your chin isn’t typically cause for alarm. Many times, chin lumps are caused by lymph nodes that swell due to an infection. Upper respiratory infections, including the cold and flu, often trigger enlarged lymph nodes.
In some cases, something else causes a lump to form under the chin. Cancer, cysts, benign tumors, and other medical conditions can cause chin lumps.
Lumps under the chin can go away on their own. Contact a healthcare professional if you experience the warning signs listed above.