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Lumps and bumps found on the body can be a cause for concern but only in the minority of cases since there are many benign conditions that can cause these issues. Most lumps and bumps are lesions that appear on the surface of or just below the skin.

People are always worried about a lump or bump being a malignancy, or cancer, but not every one of them should cause any worries or concerns for the affected individual.

When to Worry about Lumps and Bumps

There are some distinctive features of lumps and bumps that make them benign and not to be concerned about and these include the following characteristics:

  • The lump appears after a specific trauma or performance of a physical activity. These are usually muscle swellings which mostly resolve after conservative management with anti-inflammatory medications and applying cold packs to the lump.
  • The lesion is soft to the touch. If the lump or bump has the consistency of a rubber ball or jelly then it's unlikely to be a cancerous lesion.
  • The mass is mobile which means that its position changes and it moves around when trying to touch it. Malignant masses tend to be fixed to the underlying tissue due to the inflammatory changes that cause the lesion to become attached to the surrounding anatomy.
  • The lump or bump is located in the superficial layer of the skin or the underlying fat layer. An example of such a mass is a lipoma which is a collection of fat cells that results in a mobile, semi-solid mass forming in the fat layer. Any mass that is felt deeper than these areas needs to be investigated further.
  • If the lump or bump enlarges with the performance of physical activities and decreases in size at rest, then it is more likely to be a benign issue.

What Conditions are Linked to Benign Lumps and Bumps?

The most common masses that cause superficial swellings include fluid-filled lesions called cysts and common ones include Baker's cysts, which are located behind the knees, and ganglions, which are gel-filled lesions that develop along the tissues that cover joints and tendons.

Other conditions that can cause non-cancerous swelling include enlarged lymph nodes, which usually are felt in the folds of the body such as the neck, armpits, and groin regions, inflammation of tendons, and rheumatoid arthritis which involves the joints of the fingers and hands.

When to Worry about Lumps and Bumps on the Back

A good rule-of-thumb to follow is that any mass or lesion that suddenly changes colour, starts to enlarge, becomes painful, or starts to bleed should be investigated further.

This may be more difficult with lesions on the back since they are harder to visualize but one can always ask a loved one or family member to give any suspect area a look and give feedback on.

In general, if there are any concerns regarding lumps and bumps anywhere on the body, the affected individual should consult with their primary care doctor to assess and investigate the issue further.

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