Most of the lumps and the swellings which are just under the skin are mostly harmless and they should be left alone. However, you have to see your GP if you develop a new lump or swelling so that the cause of it can be identified.

If there is a sudden appearance of a lump or a swelling that is painful, over a period of a day or two, may just be the cause of an infection or an injury. If the lump is red and warm, it is likely that it is an infection. Your GP can advise you about how to take care of this.

Recognize a Lump

Recognize a Lump

Here is a short list of all the most common reasons for an unexplained lump or swelling under the skin in the following areas of the body – breasts, neck or throat, face, testicle, armpits, groin area, hand, wrist or finger, anus, shoulders, back, chest or arm.

This kind of information should give you an idea about what your swelling or lump might be. However, do not try to use it in order to diagnose yourself with a condition. Always leave that part to your doctor.

Facial swelling or lump

Any lump or swelling on the face that was not caused by an injury is most likely to be one of the following things:

  • an allergic reaction – it causes deeper swelling in the layers of the skin, such as the peanut allergy
  • mumps – a viral infection that usually affects the children and causes swelling in the glands on the side of the face
  • a dental abscess – causing the side of the mouth to swell
  • a salivary gland stone – this forms when the chemicals in the saliva block and crystalize the flow of the saliva from the salivary gland near the jaw, causing the jaw to swell and to ache

Lump in your neck or your throat

If you notice a lump in the neck or the throat it may be something of the following:

  • a cyst – a harmless lump which is filled with fluid, that may disappear on its own, without any treatment, and it usually feels like a pea and roll under the skin when you touch it
  • swollen glands – this is usually a sign of infection, for an example a cold or a glandular fever, and the glands tend to go down when you recover
  • a skin tag – a harmless growth, with a knobbly wart shape that just hangs off the skin and it can be left alone
  • a goitre – this is an abnormal swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck that causes the forming of a lump in the throat

Lump in the breast

The breast lumps are common and have several different causes. While most of the breast lumps are not breast cancer, if any unusual changes in the breasts happen, you should be checked by your doctor as soon as possible. The common causes of the lumps are the following:

  • enlarged milk ducts
  • a non cancerous growth
  • a cyst – harmless fluid filled lump
  • a lipoma – harmless fatty lump
  • a skin tag – another harmless growth that looks like a wart and is often found underneath the breast
  • mastitis – a painful and swollen breast tissue that sometimes can be caused by an infection

A lump around the groin area

The common causes of lumps around this particular area include:

  • a cyst – harmless lump filled with fluid
  • genital warts – small and fleshy growths caused by a sexually transmitted disease
  • swollen glands – this is usually a sign of infection, such as a common cold or a glandular fever, and the glands go down when you recover
  • a hernia – when an internal part o the body, for an example the bowel, pushes through a weakness in a muscle or a surrounding tissue wall
  • an enlarged vein – it is also known as a saphena varix, and is caused by a faulty valve inside the vein (the lump very often disappears when you lie down)

Lump or swelling in the testicles

Most of the testicular lumps are not cancerous and are harmless. About 4% of all lump situations in testicles turn out to be testicular cancer. The lump in that particular area may indicate the following:

  • a cyst in the epididymis (a long and coiled tube behind the testicles)
  • swollen and enlarged veins inside your scrotum
  • swelling inside caused by a build up of the fluid around your testicle

Lump around your anus

The anal swellings or lumps are usually one of these following things:

  • a skin tag – harmless growth that hangs off the skin and looks a bit similar to the wart
  • an abscess – a painful collection of pus
  • a haemorrhoid – swollen blood vessel that can hang outside the anus
  • a rectal prolapse – where a part from the rectum sticks out of the anus
  • genital warts – very small but fleshy growths caused by a sexually transmitted disease

Lump on your hand, wrist or finger

A lump on your hand wrist or your finger may be a ganglion cyst. This is the type of cyst that forms around the joints or tendons.

A ganglion cyst usually appears on the back of the wrist and it is made out of a thick jelly like fluid and feels like a very soft and smooth lump under the surface of the skin. It is still unclear why the ganglions form, but they can be related to an injury to the tendon or joint, or aging.

The ganglion does not cause any discomfort or pain, and it can be left untreated because it can disappear without any treatment. Otherwise, you may need to have it removed.

But, in some cases, the small rough lumps are called warts and they develop on the hands. Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). They are very contageous. But, other than that they are harmless and they clear up without any treatment.

Lump on your shoulder, arm, back or chest

A lump on any of these areas of the body is an indication of a cyst or a lipoma. The lipoma is a soft and fatty lump that grows under the skin. It is very common, harmless and usually it should be left alone.

When you press the lipoma it should feel a bit doughy and soft to touch. It can have a range from the size of a pea to a few centimeters across.

The cyst is a sac under the skin that contains some fluid, usually pus. It can look a bit like the lipoma does but it is closer to the surface of the skin. Cysts are firm to the touch, and a cyst may disappear without any treatment or you just may need to have it drained.

Lump in your armpit

The lump in the armpit is likely to be a swollen lymph gland, particularly if you also feel unwell and show other signs of an infection. The glands in the armpit can swell to more than a few centimeters in response to an infection or an illness. The swollen glands usually go down the minute you recover.

It is uncommon for the lump in the armpit to be a lymphoma, which is cancer of the lymph glands, but if your lymph does not go down, you should definitely see your doctor.

The small and knobbly lump in your armpit that hangs off the surface of the skin like a wart is probably nothing more than a skin tag. The skin tags grow where the skin rubs against skin or a piece of clothing which is why these are often seen under the arms. They can be left alone because they are very harmless and common.

When do you need to see your doctor?

You can visit your doctor when you develop a growth or a swelling on your body. The doctor can examine it and decide whether it is something that should be treated or not.

If the doctor is not certain, you may need to have to do a biopsy or an ultrasound scan. The surgery is recommended only for some particular types of warts.

You should also visit your doctor if you have a lump that is painful, feels hard, grows back after it has been removed or is getting bigger. In these cases your doctor will want to rule out other types of lump, such as the sarcoma, which is a very rare type of the soft tissue cancer.