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What is an armpit lump?

An armpit lump is a swelling of one or more lymph nodes under your arm. Lymph nodes are small oval or round glands present throughout the body. They may be located just under your skin or deeper in the body. Lymph nodes are connected to each other with lymphatic vessels, creating the lymphatic system.

What causes an armpit lump?

Some armpit lumps are harmless, while others may be caused by a more serious health problem. Seek medical help if your armpit lump continues to grow, is not painful, or doesn't go away after a week or two.

Some conditions that cause an armpit lump are:

  • Infections - usually bacterial, but they can also be viral, fungal or parasitic
  • Adverse reaction to vaccination
  • Lipomas -- harmless fat tissue growth
  • Allergic reactions to food or drugs
  • Fibroadenoma - non-cancerous fibrous tissue growth
  • Breast cancer that spreads to the lymph nodes
  • Lymphoma - a type of cancer that originates in the lymphatic system
  • Leukemia - blood cancer in the bone marrow

How are armpit lumps diagnosed?

Based on your medical history and physical examination, your doctor will probably run some further tests like a complete blood test, ultrasound, mammogram, CT scan and even a biopsy if there is a possibility of cancer.

Seek immediate medical help if your armpit lump doesn't go away after a week or two, if it still continues to increase in size, if it doesn't hurt and if it is hard, rubbery and not mobile when you push on it.

For female patients it is very important to do breast exams from time to time, about one week after the menstrual cycle has started.

Armpit lumps in women may indicate breast cancer.

It is very important to seek medical help and exclude this possibility or diagnose it on time.

It is also important to know that female breasts undergo hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, when they tend to feel more tender and lumpy. This is a completely normal situation so don't think the worst immediately after you notice an armpit lump.

How are armpit lumps treated?

Treatment of armpit lumps depends on their cause.

Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. Lumps caused by bacterial infections will start to heal and disappear completely after a few days. Pain killers and warm compresses will help to ease the discomfort in the meantime.

Lumps caused by lipomas, fibroadenomas and viral infections require no treatment.

If armpit lumps are as a result of a cancer, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and even surgery might be needed.

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