Finding a strange new lump on any part of the body can be a pretty scary thing. Lumps can occur all over and for many different reasons. Most lumps are benign, but in some cases, they can indicate a serious medical condition. It is important to know what is normal and what isn't when it comes to lumps. Knowing when to see a physician is an important first defense against serious conditions. Here are some frequently asked questions about lumps on the body.


There are certain areas of the body more prone to lumps than others. One of these common areas is the breasts. Breasts, in both males and females, are made mainly of fatty tissues prone to benign lumps. Other lumps may also appear here, such as cysts and milk ducts in a lactating woman. Specifically, you should see a doctor if you notice lumps in areas known for cancerous growths, such as the breast, throat, and testicles.




A cyst is a sac that forms in the body, under the skin. They can be filled with fluid, air, or other material. Cysts are fairly common and are typically benign. They form for a variety of reasons including infections, genetic conditions, and injuries. Cysts don't always require treatment. If they are bothersome they can be removed by a physician. When cysts become painful, it is often necessary to remove them.


Hard or Soft

A lump might feel very hard with no movement, or soft and malleable. Although hard lumps do not necessarily indicate something more serious, they should be examined because one characteristic of cancerous lumps is firmness to the touch. Benign lumps are usually soft. In particular, pay close attention to growths that begin soft and turn hard.




Lipomas are very common soft lumps that may develop anywhere on the body, including the abdomen, neck, back, and thighs. They form when fat stays in the soft tissues of the body. Lipomas usually occur in middle-aged men and women, but can be found in anyone. They grow at a very slow rate and are harmless. Lipomas can disappear on their own and only need treatment if they become uncomfortable.



Swollen Glands

Lymph nodes - glands that aid the body in fighting infections - exist throughout the body. If you have ever gone to the doctor with a cold or a sore throat, you may remember having your glands checked. During an illness, lymph nodes can swell up and can cause mild pain. They are most noticeable in the neck and behind the ears. Don't be alarmed if you feel these glands and you aren't feeling well. Again, it is usually a sign that your body is fighting off a simple infection. Always see your physician if symptoms persist.



Size Change

Several kinds of lumps change in size over time. Though not necessarily indicative of a bigger problem, lumps that increase in size should be evaluated by a medical professional. A common characteristic of malignant tumors is an increase in shape and size over a short period. Again, a lump that begins to grow does not signify a serious diagnosis, but it should be checked out.




The word "tumor" is one of the scariest words in the entire vocabulary. It is often associated with a frightening diagnosis and may alarm patients who hear it. The truth of the matter is, tumor is just another word for lump. Lumps, bumps, and tumors are all either benign or malignant. Benign growths are harmless and require no treatment (except removal if they bother you). Malignant lumps indicate cancer and need treatment.




Lumps usually present with no pain or issues, but pain does not necessarily indicate a more serious issue. Several types of benign tumors including cysts, lipomas, and swollen glands cause mild to moderate pain, particularly if the growth is situated near a nerve. If a lump is causing a lot of discomfort, you may want to have it examined. Severe pain can be an indication of something serious.



Family History

Family history plays a role in the development of certain lumps, like cysts. Chances are, if mom and grandma have them, you will too. The same can be said about other growths including cancerous ones, unfortunately. Studies show that women with a strong family history of breast cancer are more likely to develop lumps in their breasts. The same goes for other cancers. Know your family history and pay attention to your body. Always have new growths evaluated and get regular check-ups.



Speak to a Doctor

A great rule of thumb when dealing with lumps: when in doubt, check it out! There is no reason to play guessing games or prolong anxiety. If you notice something on your body that concerns you, make an appointment to have it evaluated. People often ignore the signs and symptoms of more serious conditions because they don't have the time or don't want to "bother" their doctor with what seems minor. Any doctor will tell you that early detection is best, so make an appointment without hesitation.



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