Medical Q&As

Thyroglossal cyst - serious?

My sister has a lump on the centre of her throat just where a manís Adamís apple is. It is about the same size as a marble and has been present for the past year. My sister says that the lump is just an ingrown hair and wonít go to the doctor about it. She smokes about 15 cigarettes per day. Our father died of cancer of the stomach. Do you have any idea what this could be?

This sounds like a thyroglossal cyst, which is a swelling in the neck that occurs in the midline of the neck just above the level of the Adamís apple. A characteristic feature of a thyroglossal cyst is that it moves up and down as the tongue is protruded and then drawn back. This distinguishes it from other swellings in the neck which are not affected by movement of the tongue. I note your comment about your sisterís smoking but you can reassure her that a thyroglossal cyst does not turn cancerous nor is it related to smoking. It is a benign swelling. However, they can become infected and this can give rise to fistula formation on the front of the neck. A fistula is an opening from the surface into the cyst, which can be quite unsightly and can give rise to recurrent infection. I would advise that you show this answer to your sister and persuade her to have her neck examined in order to have the diagnosis confirmed.