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When to Worry About Your Body’s Lumps and Bumps

You just found a new bump under your skin and you begin to panic. Could it be cancer?

Could This Lump be Cancer?

While we tend to think the worst, most lumps are not cause for concern. If you find a lump that has the following characteristics, the chances are that it is not serious:

  • Soft
  • Move and change form with touch
  • Grow large and painful with activity and get smaller with rest

It May be a Lymph Node

Lymph nodes are movable, pea-size lumps found throughout the body, but are mostly in the neck, groin, armpits, and behind the collarbone. Their role is to get rid of toxins and dead blood cells. When you have a cold or even a minor infection, your lymph nodes may swell because they’re being bombarded with dead cells. If the swollen gland persists or grows bigger than a pea and stays that way for more than two weeks, or if you notice more swollen glands, it’s best to see your doctor to have it checked.

Skin Cysts

Cysts are non-cancerous and are filled with fluid, pus, or other material. They can appear anywhere and feel like small peas under the skin. Cysts can develop as a result of infection, clogged oil glands, or around foreign bodies, such as earrings. They are usually slow-growing, painless, and smooth to the touch when they are rolled under the skin. Some cysts disappear on their own without treatment. Others may need to be drained.

A Lump in the Breast

Many women find lumps in their breast during self-examination. It’s only natural to panic and think the worst, as a lump or mass in the breast is the most common symptom of breast cancer.

These lumps are often hard and painless, though some may be painful. Not all lumps are cancer, though. There are a number of benign breast conditions (like cysts) that can also cause lumps. It’s important to be aware of your body and to see your doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts.

endocrinologist appointment

When Not to Worry

While we tend to think the worst, most lumps are not cause for concern. If you find a lump that has the following characteristics, the chances are that it is not serious:

  • Soft
  • Move and change form with touch
  • Grow large and painful with activity and get smaller with rest

It May be a Lymph Node

Lymph nodes are movable, pea-size lumps found throughout the body, but are mostly in the neck, groin, armpits, and behind the collarbone. Their role is to get rid of toxins and dead blood cells. When you have a cold or even a minor infection, your lymph nodes may swell because they’re being bombarded with dead cells. If the swollen gland persists or grows bigger than a pea and stays that way for more than two weeks, or if you notice more swollen glands, it’s best to see your doctor to have it checked.

Skin Cysts

Cysts are non-cancerous and are filled with fluid, pus, or other material. They can appear anywhere and feel like small peas under the skin. Cysts can develop as a result of infection, clogged oil glands, or around foreign bodies, such as earrings. They are usually slow-growing, painless, and smooth to the touch when they are rolled under the skin. Some cysts disappear on their own without treatment. Others may need to be drained.

RELATED: Breast Self-Awareness: What Women Should Know

For more information, visit the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.