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Underarm Lumps, cancer, lumps, breast lumps

Worried about an underarm lump? Find out what it means

Almost every woman, at some point, will find a lump in her underarm and her mind will go straight to the horrific thought of breast cancer. This is common given the fact that most of you have heard that having underarm lumps is usually one of the signs.

Although that is true, breast cancer is just one of the many reasons for abnormal growth in the armpit region. So, with the help of the following article, you can examine and learn about the different causes of your underarm lumps without assuming the worst.

What are underarm lumps?

Underarm lumps are usually caused by swollen lymph nodes or glands that are developed under the armpits. Lymph nodes can be identified as small oval-shaped developments that form a ball-like structure.

Underarm lumps are experienced by both men and women alike, but poses more of a health risk for women in rare cases. These swollen bumps might seem scary at first, but in most cases, they are just the result of some minor issues.

To understand these lumps better and why they occur, here are some causes and symptoms that you can examine and see for yourself if your condition requires serious attention.

What are the causes of underarm lumps?

Most underarm lumps are harmless, and some of their major causes include:

1. Growth of fibrous tissues

Fibrous tissues are also known as fibroadenoma that are harmless breast tumours. These non-cancerous lumps usually develop in comparatively younger women in age (15-35 years) and during premenopause.

2. Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions are usually caused due to deodorants, antiperspirants, soaps, roll-ons, or perfumes that one might be using. The content of alcohol or fragrant materials in these products might be harsh on the sensitive skin of the underarms, thus causing reactions like lumps and rashes.

3. Lipomas

Lipomas are known as the growth of fatty tissues under one’s skin. They develop not only in the underarms but also in other parts of the body like neck, shoulder, forearms and thighs.

4. Infections

You can contract an infection that causes the formation of lumps in the armpits. These infections could be fungal, bacterial, viral, or even due to a reaction caused by vaccinations. 

5. Other causes

Out of all these causes, there are very few cases where lumps are caused due to serious conditions like breast cancer, lupus, or leukemia. In such cases, you can never be too sure, and hence it is always better to consult a medical professional, no matter how small the situation might seem.

What are the symptoms of underarm lumps?

The biggest indication or symptom of a lump in the armpit is the lump itself. However, there are other signs which tell you if you are forming an underarm lump. The different types of armpit growth can also give you a clearer picture.

For example, if it is a cyst infection or simply a fatty growth, the lump will feel very soft. In the case of cancerous lumps, however, this growth might feel comparatively harder.

Symptoms of infectious lumps include fever, night sweats and swelling of lymph nodes. An increase in size or difference in hardness and colour might indicate a more serious problem like breast cancer or leukaemia.

Also, Read: Is the pain in the breasts or breast soreness an alarming sign?

How are underarm lumps diagnosed?

Sometimes, it is very difficult for a person to identify a lump on their own. These lumps might occur in both men and women, but for women, it is necessary to do a regular breast examination to avoid any serious conditions from developing.

A breast self-exam involves looking for any lumps in the breast area along with underarms and hands. If you do find a lump or something that resembles it, go to a doctor to get it diagnosed and see what it means.

A family doctor or medical professional is the only person who can determine what your lump denotes. Sometimes, a simple examination will do the trick, and you might find out what your condition entails. 

But in other cases, the doctor will ask you to do other examinations which could be:

  1. Removing a small part of the lump to test it for any serious conditions (Biopsy)
  2. Mammography (also known as breast X-Ray)
  3. Allergy testing (through blood or skin tests)
  4. Examining blood count to get an exact number of red and white blood cells in your system along with a platelet count
  5. MRI or CT scan
  6. Extracting fluid from the lump to check for infections

Also, Read: What to expect when you are diagnosed with breast cancer

What is the treatment for underarm lumps?

Based on the type of lump, your doctor will prescribe you different treatments and medicines. The types are generally bifurcated into three broad categories.

1. Regular lumps

These lumps are usually caused due to lipoma, different infections or non-cancerous lumps (fibroadenoma). These can be treated very easily with a small dose of ibuprofen or using a warm compress or hot water bag. 

2. Bacterial infections

For bacterial infections and allergies, the doctor will usually prescribe medication that is on the heavier side such as antibiotics. This removes the allergen from its roots and ensures the chances of the lump forming again are minimised.

3. Cancerous lumps

These lumps are usually treated using surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy if cancer has spread to other parts.

Conclusion

As it turns out, all lumps are not cancerous, but in some cases can still be harmful. Therefore, the best way to tackle this situation is to regularly examine your body and be on the lookout for such abnormalities.

Only when you find the lump in time will you be able to consult with the best Breast Cancer Specialist and get the right treatment that your condition requires. Keep in mind that this condition will generally not be fatal, but it is equally important to be aware in case the situation is severe.

Author: Dr. Rohan Khandelwal
Dr. Rohan Khandelwal is a renowned surgeon who has completed his fellowship in breast oncology and advanced breast surgery from esteemed institutes like The Aiello Breast Center, University of Maryland. He has garnered over 17 years of clinical experience from some of the most reputed healthcare facilities across the country. He specializes in benign and cancerous breast disorders in both genders. He is also the editor in chief for the New Indian Journal of Surgery and Journal of Young Medical Researcher.
 
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