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Carotid Body Tumors

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Symptoms of a Carotid Body Tumor

A carotid body tumor may not cause any symptoms at first, but it can usually be felt as a slow-growing, painless mass on the side of the neck. As the tumor enlarges, over the course of several years, it may begin to cause symptoms that include:

  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Partial paralysis or numbness in the tongue
  • Weakness or pain in the shoulders
  • Vision changes, or a drooping eyelid
  • High blood pressure or heart palpitations
  • A bruit – the distinct whooshing sound of blood pushing past an obstruction

A carotid body tumor is extremely slow growing and is not an emergency, but anyone with a suspected or diagnosed carotid body tumor should be referred to a cerebrovascular neurosurgeon for evaluation. (See Diagnosing and Treating a Carotid Body Tumor.)

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Reviewed by Justin Schwarz, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: August 2021