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Armpit Lumps: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment


Armpit lumps are very common and they are a cause of concern because of many underlying factors. The size of the lumps vary - they can be very tiny or large.

What Is An Armpit Lump?

Armpit lump is a swelling under the arm caused by a swollen lymph node or gland under the armpit. The lymph nodes are small oval-shaped glands which play an important role in the body's immune system and they are situated everywhere in the body [1] .

The lumps can be painful and enlarged when they are caused by an infection and these lumps are easily noticeable [2] .

Causes Of Armpit Lumps

In most cases, armpit lumps are harmless and they develop as a result of abnormal tissue growth. However, certain serious underlying health conditions can also cause armpit lumps which are as follows:

  • Bacterial, viral and fungal infections
  • Allergic reactions
  • Lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system)
  • Breast cancer [3]
  • Leukaemia (cancer in the blood cells or in the bone marrow)
  • Lupus (an autoimmune disease)
  • Lipomas (harmless fatty tissue growth)
  • Harmful reactions to vaccinations
  • Allergic reactions
  • Fibroadenoma (non-cancerous, fibrous tissue growth)
  • Cysts

12 Home Remedies To Treat Armpit Lumps

Symptoms Of Armpit Lumps

The lump in the armpit itself is a sign and the texture varies depending on its causes. For example, if the lump is caused due to fibroadenoma, it may feel hard and if it's caused due to a cyst or an infection, it may feel soft.

One of the symptoms of armpit lumps is the pain caused due to lymph node infections. Other symptoms include swelling in the lymph nodes throughout the body, night sweats, and fever.

The lumps become larger in size when they are caused due to breast cancer, leukaemia and lymphoma.

Armpit Lumps In Males

Armpit lumps in males can develop as swelling or a bump, it can be small or big, painful or painless depending on its causes. Some of the causes of armpit lumps in men are as follows:

  • Allergy to vaccinations - Some men may have an adverse reaction to vaccinations which may cause a swollen lymph node.
  • Muscle knot - It can result from overexertion or exercising too much.
  • Folliculitis (inflamed hair follicle) - It occurs when your underarm hair follicle becomes inflamed from an ingrown hair.
  • Hidradenitis suppurativa - It occurs due to clogged sweat glands and blocked hair follicles.
  • Abscesses - Abscesses also known as boils may result from pus-filled cysts under the skin that develop around a hair follicle.

Other causes of armpit lumps in men are Castleman disease, cat-scratch disease, viruses, lymphadenitis, lipoma, leukaemia, lymphoma and breast cancer [4] .

Armpit Lumps In Females

Breasts undergo numerous hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle so, women may feel their breasts to be tender and lumpy. This is quite normal, but a lump in the armpit could also indicate breast cancer [5] .

According to the American Cancer Society, a bump or swelling in the armpit can be caused by breast cancer that has spread to the nearby lymph nodes.

If a woman finds a lump, she should consult a doctor immediately.

Armpit Lumps In Children

Enlargement of the lymph nodes is a common problem in children and adolescents. It may result from viral or bacterial infections like flu, cold or strep throat, lymph node infections, reaction to medicines, and juvenile arthritis [6] .

When To See A Doctor

If the lump is gradually growing larger in size, painless and doesn't go away within a few days, you should immediately consult a doctor.

Diagnosis Of Armpit Lumps [7]

The doctor will have a look at the lump closely and ask about the symptoms. He or she may perform a physical exam which includes hand palpation or massage to check the consistency and texture of the lump.

Based on the results of your physical examination, the doctor will conduct additional diagnostic tests which are as follows:

  • Complete blood count test that measures the number of red blood cells (RBCs) and white blood cells (WBCs).
  • Allergy testing.
  • Chest or breast X-ray, an imaging test that allows the doctor to check the lump better.
  • Biopsy is another test which is done by removing a small piece of tissue from the lump for testing.

Treatment Of Armpit Lumps

The treatment depends on the causes of the lump. In most cases, the doctor may recommend simple home remedies like warm compress, over-the-counter pain-relieving medicines and over-the-counter creams to ease discomfort.

But if the lumps are caused by allergic reactions or bacterial infections, the doctor will prescribe medications. After which the lump will disappear within a few days.

Treatment is not required for lumps caused by lipomas, viral infections and fibroadenoma. However, if the lump is a cyst simple surgical procedures can be done to remove it.

If your armpit lump turns out to be a cancerous tumour, the treatment will depend on the type of cancer and what stage it's in.

To Conclude...

If you have an armpit lump that hasn't disappeared within a few days, it is advisable to consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis that will help in faster recovery.

View Article References
  1. [1] Leibman, A. J., & Kossoff, M. B. (1992). Mammography in women with axillary lymphadenopathy and normal breasts on physical examination: value in detecting occult breast carcinoma.AJR. American journal of roentgenology,159(3), 493-495.
  2. [2] Walsh, R., Kornguth, P. J., Soo, M. S., Bentley, R., & DeLong, D. M. (1997). Axillary lymph nodes: mammographic, pathologic, and clinical correlation.AJR. American journal of roentgenology,168(1), 33-38.
  3. [3] Giuliano, A. E., Haigh, P. I., Brennan, M. B., Hansen, N. M., Kelley, M. C., Ye, W., ... & Turner, R. R. (2000). Prospective observational study of sentinel lymphadenectomy without further axillary dissection in patients with sentinel node–negative breast cancer.Journal of Clinical Oncology,18(13), 2553-2559.
  4. [4] Xu, R., Li, J., Zhang, Y., Jing, H., & Zhu, Y. (2017). Male occult breast cancer with axillary lymph node metastasis as the first manifestation: A case report and literature review.Medicine,96(51), e9312.
  5. [5] Leibman, A. J., & Kossoff, M. B. (1992). Mammography in women with axillary lymphadenopathy and normal breasts on physical examination: value in detecting occult breast carcinoma.AJR. American journal of roentgenology,159(3), 493-495.
  6. [6] Kelly, C. S., & Kelly Jr, R. E. (1998). Lymphadenopathy in children.Pediatric Clinics of North America,45(4), 875-888.
  7. [7] Prasad, R. R. A., Narasimhan, R., Sankaran, V., & Veliath, A. J. (1996). Fine‐needle aspiration cytology in the diagnosis of superficial lymphadenopathy: An analysis of 2,418 cases.Diagnostic cytopathology,15(5), 382-386.

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