The posterior cervical lymph nodes are located on the neck. They are responsible for draining and filtering lymphatic fluid from different areas in the head and neck.

As with all lymph nodes in the body, their responsibility is to filter debris like bacteria, cancer cells, viruses, and anything else that shouldn’t be circulating through your body.

Lymph nodes in the body can swell up for several diverse reasons. Only a small percentage of enlargements are for unknown purposes. Most swelling can be linked to a cause, which can be simple and quickly pass; other causes of swelling are severe and will need medical treatment.

What Are Some Causes For Swelling?

The following is some causes of posterior cervical lymph node swelling and enlargement:

  • Underneath the jaw (submandibular) – Sinus, brain, eye, ears, neck, scalp, and pharynx infections and allergies.
  • On the neck by the jaw (jugular) – Pharyngitis and rubella (German measles).
  • Below the chin (submental) – Ebstein-Barr virus, mononucleosis, dental infection, inflammation (periodontitis), cytomegalovirus (herpes), toxoplasmosis.
  • Back of the neck near the skull (occipital) – Localized infection of scalp or head.
  • Behind the ears (postauricular) – Contained infection of ears or scalp.
  • In front of the ears (preauricular) – Infection in the eyelids (mucous membrane), the temporal region and ear infections
  • Hollow above clavicle on the right side (right supraclavicular) – Lung infection, retroperitoneal cancer, gastrointestinal cancer.
  • Hollow above clavicle on the left side (left supraclavicular) – Bacterial infection, fungal infection, lymphoma, thoracic, and retroperitoneal cancer.

Only a health care professional can diagnose the cause of swelled or enlarged posterior cervical lymph nodes. When an infection is a cause, the lymph node should return to average size when the infection is gone. Including the incubation stage, most diseases run their course in about 10-14 days.

Swelling Caused By Cancer

When a posterior cervical lymph node is swollen due to cancer, cancer will be treated. Also, a biopsy of the lymph node may be performed if so the lymph nodes will be removed. When cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, it changes the diagnosis of which stage the disease is in and how cancer will be treated. If the doctor wants to remove the lymph nodes, be sure to get all the information on alternatives and long-term consequences of the lymphatic system flow having an interruption in the area where the lymph node will be removed. A second opinion may be worth the cost.

Additional Information – Lymph Node (Lymphoma) Cancer


Most of the time, a swollen posterior cervical lymph node is just a sign that your body is doing what it is designed to do; locate, isolate, and eliminate the infection in the body. The body is very proficient in its job. In the rare event, the enlarged posterior cervical lymph nodes are a sign of something more severe or even life-threatening. It is best to receive prompt treatment from a health care professional to have the best outcome of treatment.