Your lymphatic system includes lymph, nodes, capillaries, and vessels. The lymph is circulated throughout your body and filtered through hundreds of nodes that trap debris and pathogens that are removed from the cells in your body. Part of this system is the anterior cervical lymph nodes, which are located on the lower front of your neck.

Due to the region that they drain and their location it is common for swelling to be noticed. There are two types of nodes that are categorized by their location along your neck.

Locations Along The Neck

There is a large number of lymph nodes along the neck and base of the head – you’ll also find a majority of them located in the torso and groin – Below are the two types along your neck.

  1. Superficial Anterior Cervical
  2. Deep Anterior Cervical

These lymph nodes lie along with your muscles and when swollen may be more noticeable when your neck turns to the left or right. They are responsible for the drainage of the pharynx, thyroid gland, and tonsils.

Others include the following:

  • Superficial cervical group located along the side of the neck
  • Submental group located under the chin
  • Post cervical group located towards the back of the neck
  • Submandibular group located under the jaw
  • Deep cervical chain located deep inside the side of the neck

Swelling in one location is often from a health issue in that area but it is bilateral or diffuse often is caused by malignancy (Malignancy – Icon: External Link).

Understand More – occipital lymph node

Causes of Swelling Along the Front of Your Neck

At times, your nodes will swell up because cancer is present. When they are fixed, rubbery, appear suddenly or have been present longer than a few weeks it may be a sign that a healthcare professional should examine it. They will determine if the cause is a malignancy. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph nodes. Swelling can also happen if there are cancer cells from other types nearby.

A good source for images of the neck can be found at Wesley Norman’s site, The Anatomy Lesson #5 Icon: External Link.

Additional Reasons

There isn’t a large number of lymph nodes above your shoulders, but they are very noticeable because of their location. Some of the most common infections and ailments have to do with the head area so it is understandable why they will be the ones to swell the most often. The following can cause swelling, pain, and enlargement of the neck nodes:

  • Recent immunization
  • Ear infection
  • Infection in the throat
  • Mononucleosis
  • Ebstein-Barr
  • Cytomegalovirus

Common ailments like the flu, cold, and even allergies may cause your nodes to become inflamed in response to the pathogens that are causing the health issue. When the cause is a common infection it usually runs its course and when it is over your nodes will return to their normal size, which is about the size of a bean.

Additional Information – Swollen Lymph Nodes


Your neck isn’t the only place that nodes are easily seen. The nodes in your armpit and groin are also commonly noticed when swollen. Due to the increased information available on breast cancer, women check their nodes in the armpits on a regular basis. Any swollen lymph node should be monitored for warning signs that they should be checked.