The antibiotics did nothing to alter the size of the lateral neck mass, which prompted a visit to an ENT. At this point, I was 100% convinced that I had cancer based on everything that I read. The only question was what “type” of cancer and its stage. After spraying my nasal cavity with a numbing agent, the physician looked at my throat using an endoscope (e.g., examining my throat using a tiny, flexible camera inserted through the nasal cavity) that didn’t seem to indicate anything out of the ordinary. The next logical step was a CT scan to obtain additional information, which I promptly scheduled.
It was the day before Thanksgiving and I was waiting for the water to heat up before getting into the shower. Glancing at my reflection in the mirror, I noticed that the right side of my neck looked a bit larger than the other side. Placing my hand on my neck, I could easily feel an unusual lump just under my jaw line that clearly wasn’t there the day before. It was a solid mass and wasn’t sore at all to the touch. A quick search on Google made me nervous enough to reach out to my general physician and they were kind enough to get me in that afternoon. I’m not generally a pessimistic person, but I had already prepared myself for either lymphoma or head/neck cancer.
Remarking that he could sense the level of concern on our faces, the physician suggested that the lump was a blocked salivary gland and that such a condition could be either painful or not. He prescribed an antibiotic (levofloxacin, 500mg) and stated that the lump should decrease after a few days unless there was a stone or other obstruction causing the blockage. In any event, I was to follow-up with him around Monday unless there was severe pain or discomfort in which case I could consider going to the emergency room over the weekend. In the back of my mind, I was still convinced we were dealing with something different. As stated in the peer-reviewed literature, “More than 75% of lateral neck masses in patients older than 40 years are caused by malignant tumours, and the incidence of neoplastic cervical adenopathy continues to increase with age.”¹