A cancerous lump on the back of the head is a suggestive sign of head and neck cancer. A cancer lump on the back of the head may be either a cyst, tumor, or any soft tissue sarcomas, etc. Tumors at the back of the head are referred to as posterior skull base tumors. A cancerous lump often brings out discomfort to patients over the head, neck, and spine region. One should always be alert if they find any sudden, unusual growth of lump-like structures at the back of the head, even if they are asymptomatic. A proper consultation with your doctor helps in delineating the condition.
What Causes Cancer Lump on the Back of Head?
Lumps with malignant potential on the back of the head can either start as a primary tumor (originate within the skull base) or due to metastasis from other parts of the body (secondary tumor). The obvious development of a cancer lump on the back of the head is not known, but a varied number of factors increase the risk of developing it. That include:
Genetic changes like a mutation of DNA in brain cells.
Exposure to radiation.
Due to exposure to infection, viruses, or any allergens that may predispose to cancer. For example, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) increases the risk of developing CNS lymphoma.
Exposure to compounds like vinyl chloride results in the development of brain tumors, lymphomas, etc.
Increased sun exposure leads to skin cancer that forms a small painful lump on the back of the head.
What Does a Cancer Lump on the Back of the Head Look Like?
The characteristic appearance of the cancerous lump often looks like a hard, firm, non-tender swelling that may be painless or painful. In certain cases, the lump looks reddish, fluctuant, and painful. Painful cancer lumps on the back of the head are often suggestive of lymph node involvement. Do examine for such changes in your body, and if you find any, then do consult with your doctor.
What Are the Symptoms Associated With Cancer Lump on Back of Head?
A lump anywhere in the body causes discomfort to the patient. There are cases where the cancer lump is so big that it protrudes outside and creates a lack of mental peace and irritability in the patient. The signs and symptoms associated with a cancer lump on the back of the head include:
Pain at the back of the head, spine, neck, etc.
Pain over the groin area is seen in cases when cancer spreads to the spine.
Nausea or vomiting.
At advanced stages, cancer shows the following symptoms:
If you feel suspicious that you have such symptoms, then consult your doctor at the earliest.
What Are the Different Cancer Lumps Seen on the Back of the Head?
The different cancer lumps seen on the back of the neck include:
1. Posterior Skull Base Tumors- These tumors are seen at the back of the skull. Some of the examples of malignant posterior skull base tumors include;
- Chordoma- Rare, slow-growing cancer that develops in bones of the skull and spine.
- Meningioma- A tumor that develops from membranes of the brain and spinal cord. It is mostly benign but has malignant potential too.
- Chondrosarcoma of Head and Neck- A rare sarcoma in the head and neck with malignant potential.
2. Brain Tumor- Brain tumors with malignant potential that occur at the back of the head include:
- Medulloblastoma- The most common cancerous brain tumor that occurs in children.
- Ependymoma- A brain tumor that arises in the ependymal cells in the brain and spinal cord.
3. Skin Cancer- Skin cancer that develops a lump in the back of the head looks reddish with raised edges. Some of the skin cancers that develop at the back of the head include.
- Melanoma- Type of skin cancer that develops in melanocytes.
- Squamous Cell Cancer- Cancer that develops in the squamous cell.
- Basal Cell Cancer- Cancer that develops in the basal cell layer.
How to Diagnose Cancer Lumps on the Back of the Head?
Your doctor will ask to do the following diagnostic tests to delineate whether the lump is cancerous or not. The diagnostic tests include:
Biopsy- A biopsy helps in delineating whether the lump is cancerous or not. It gives out a definitive diagnosis. The biopsy procedure involves removing a small amount of tissue from the affected site, and then it is sent for pathological examination. Pathological examination reveals the characteristics of the cancer cells.
Imaging Tests- Imaging tests like CT (computed tomography) scan, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and X-rays are very useful in determining the size, extent of cancer involved, and the structures associated with the tumor.
Biomarker Testing- Biomarker testing helps in characterizing the changes or alterations that occur in tumors.
Bone Scan- In a bone scan, a radioactive tracer is used to examine the bones. It helps in detecting cancer spread to the bone.
After carrying out all the diagnostic tests suggested, the doctor will examine the test results and give a detailed explanation of the condition to the patient. Once the results are verified, the doctor will plan a treatment for the condition.
How to Treat Cancer Lump on the Back of the Head?
The treatment planning to treat cancer depends on its severity, nature, the spread of cancer to different body parts, etc. Treatment planning is designed by doctors who specialize in treating head and neck cancers like neurologists, plastic surgeons, oncologists, otolaryngologists, etc. Let us see in brief the various treatment options:
The main aim of surgical treatment is to completely remove the cancer lump and the cancer cells present in the affected area.
- Surgical Excision- Surgical excision involves the complete removal of a cancerous lump, and a little amount of surrounding healthy tissue is removed to avoid its recurrence. Surgical excision is not a preferred treatment option in cases where the lump involves any vital structures.
- Craniotomy- It is the most common surgery used in brain tumor removal. In this, a neurosurgeon makes an incision in the scalp where the cancer lump is present, and the lump and the cancerous tissue over the affected site are removed. This procedure is done only by experienced neurosurgeons as it is an intensive surgical procedure.
- MRI Guided Laser Ablation- MRI-guided laser ablation is a type of minimally invasive surgical procedure that is highly preferred over craniotomy in treating brain tumors. It helps surgeons in treating highly challenging brain tumors like glioblastoma, which is highly fatal and has a high recurrence rate. In this technique, a fiber optic laser applicator is inserted into the skull to access the tumor via a small incision made by the surgeon in the skull. The laser applicator is navigated inside the skull under MRI guidance, and once it reaches the affected area, the cancer cells are killed by the laser heat emitted from the laser applicator.
- Lymph Node Dissection- Lymph node dissection is done only in cases where cancer metastasizes to the lymph node.
2. Radiation Therapy- In radiation therapy, cancer cells are killed using high-energy X-rays.
3. Chemotherapy- Drugs are used to kill cancer cells in chemotherapy. The main drawback of using chemotherapy is it not only affects cancer cells but also the normal cells of the body. In order to overcome this drawback, an optional treatment modality is used known as “targeted drug therapy,” where the drugs specifically kill the cancer cells without affecting the normal cells.
4. Immunotherapy- Immunotherapy is done by injecting medicines into the body via IV (intravenously) or IM (intramuscular), or subcutaneously. Immunotherapy helps in improving the immune system of an individual and thus helps in the fight against cancer.
An early diagnosis is a must in diagnosing the unusual lump growth on the body, which helps in treating it better. The patient should consult the doctor to examine the condition and delineate whether the lump is either cancerous or not. If the doctor finds out the lump growth to be cancerous, then he will discuss with the patient the different treatment plans to remove the lump completely and cure it.
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