Skin Lesions on the Head and Neck
What skin lesions affect the head and neck?
Many different skin conditions may affect the head and neck. These vary from irritations, such as wheals or eczema, to benign conditions, such as sun damage or skin tags, to malignant conditions, such as rodent ulcers or skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma). Sometimes, you may be able to feel a lump underneath the skin rather than on it. It is very important that you mention these to your doctor.
How is a diagnosis made?
Your family doctor is usually experienced enough to make a diagnosis quickly, at least to distinguish between a benign or malignant skin condition affecting the head and neck region. If there is any uncertainty, you should seek the advice of an ENT specialist immediately. Your specialist is used to seeing skin lesions on the head and neck very commonly. If a diagnosis cannot be made immediately additional tests may be advised, such as a skin biopsy or a needle biopsy test of an underlying lump.
What treatments are available?
For skin irritations or inflammation, treatment involves identifying the source of the irritation, avoiding it, then treating the complaint with cream, ointment and/or medication. Benign skin conditions may be treated with cream or they may be removed surgically if unsightly, often under a local anaesthetic. Malignant skin conditions require an ENT specialist's input, and should not be managed by your family doctor. These can require special investigations and are usually managed surgically. ENT surgeons are experts at removing skin lesions from difficult cosmetic areas in the head and neck, such as from the nose, the ear and on the face, which may necessitate local skin flaps to achieve the best cosmetic result.
What if you can feel a lump underneath the skin?
These can again be benign or malignant. The head and neck is a very complex area of the body. There are many different anatomical structures that may be affected by the lump, from lymph glands to salivary glands to blood vessels to muscle to bone. It is extremely important that you mention these to your family doctor as a matter of urgency. Your doctor should then refer you to an ENT specialist to have the lump diagnosed and treated.
What should you do next?