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31st May, 20205 min read

I have a lump under my skin -- what could it be?

Medical reviewer:Healthily's medical team
Author:Tomas Duffin
Last reviewed: 01/06/2020
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

When you find a lump under your skin and you don’t know what it is, it’s easy to let your mind wander to the worst possible outcome.

Most lumps are harmless, but sometimes they require treatment and could be something more serious that needs immediate or urgent treatment from a doctor.

So it’s important to try and understand what may be causing your lump.

If you’re worried or unsure, you should always see a doctor.

Where is your lump?

The location of a lump can be a good indicator of what it is and what caused it.

Is your lump around the:

  • armpit, or neck?
  • groin?
  • breast or testicle?
  • bottom?
  • hands?

If so, read on to find out what may be causing it.

Lumps on your armpit or neck

Possible cause: Swollen gland

A swelling on the side of your neck or armpit may suggest that your glands are swollen.

When the glands (lymph nodes) in this region become swollen, this is usually a sign that your body’s fighting an infection, such as in your tonsils, ear or throat.

The lump usually goes down within a few weeks, but if it persists or gets worse you should see a doctor.

Possible cause: Swelling of the thyroid gland (goitre)

If you’ve got a lump on the front of your neck it could be a goitre. This occurs when a different gland in your neck, called the thyroid, swells up.

If you have a goitre, the lump will move when you swallow.

You should see a doctor who may recommend some tests or arrange a jelly scan of your neck (ultrasound).

Lumps on your groin

Possible cause: Hernia

A lump in your groin may be a hernia. This occurs when a part from inside your body (an organ or fatty tissue) pushes out through a weakness in your muscle or the surrounding tissue.

Hernias are usually nothing to worry about, but you should always get them checked by a doctor.

Lumps on your breast or testicle

A lump in your breast or testicle should be checked by a doctor.

A lump in one of these areas can have many causes and most lumps are harmless. But they can, in some cases, be a sign of cancer.

Possible cause: Non-cancerous growth

A lump in your breast or testicle may be a non-cancerous growth, such as a breast fibroadenoma (which has a rubbery texture and moves around easily when touched) or swollen veins in the testicles (varicose veins).

If you discover a lump in your breast or testicle, you should always get it checked by a doctor.

Possible cause: Fluid build up (cyst)

Another possible cause of a lump in your breast or testicle is a fluid-filled lump, called a cyst. It may be possible to have more than one cyst in the breast.

Most cysts are nothing to worry about and go away by themselves but you should still see a doctor.

Lumps on your bottom

Possible cause: Piles (haemorrhoids)

A swelling around your bottom (anus) could be a sign of piles. These are lumps inside and around your bottom that can cause itching, pain and bright red blood after you poo.

You can usually treat piles at home with creams, cold packs and treatments from the pharmacist.

You should see a doctor if your symptoms don’t improve after 7 days of treatment, or if the piles keep coming back. The doctor will examine you and possibly prescribe stronger treatment.

A small amount of blood can be normal with piles, but you should see a doctor so they can check what’s causing the bleeding.

You should also see a doctor if:

  • you have piles and your temperature is high
  • your piles are leaking fluid or pus
  • you feel hot and shivery or generally unwell

You should go to the emergency department if:

  • you’re bleeding constantly
  • you see large amounts of blood or blood clots in the loo
  • you’re in severe pain or feel dizzy

Possible cause: Rectal prolapse

A lump around your bottom can be a sign of rectal prolapse, which is when part of your rectum sticks out of your bottom, forming a lump.

If you think you have a rectal prolapse, see a doctor.

Lumps on your hands

Possible cause: Ganglion cysts

A lump on your hand could be a ganglion cyst, which is a harmless swelling filled with fluid that can range from the size of a pea to a golf ball.

Ganglions are harmless and treatment is generally only recommended if it causes you pain or affects range of movement.

Possible cause: Warts

Warts tend to be on the surface rather than under the skin, and you can recognise them by their small, firm and rough texture.

Warts are often nothing to worry about and usually go away on their own.

When should I worry?

Lumps can appear anywhere on your skin, and usually a lump will be harmless.

However, if you’re worried about a lump under your skin -- regardless of its location -- get it checked by a doctor.

Always see a doctor if the lump does not go away, gets bigger, is painful or red, or you have additional symptoms. A doctor should be able to tell you what it is or refer you for further tests.

Find out more about general lumps and swellings.

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