4 Symptoms That Indicate an Armpit Lump Might Be Cancerous

Medically Reviewed by Carolin Schneider, MD

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Most people have experienced lumps in some form, especially if they’re older. Most often, lumps are harmless, but, in some cases, they may indicate a dangerous, underlying condition or illness. For example, lumps that form in the armpit area may be formed from extended breast tissue or swollen lymph nodes — and that could be a cause for concern. With this in mind, it’s important to watch for changes in size and feel. Moreover, pay attention to how long a lump lasts and if any additional lumps form. 

Note: If you experience or notice any of the following symptoms, consult your healthcare provider immediately. 

Changes in Size

A medical professional should assess any armpit lump that changes in size. Lumps associated with fatty tissues within the armpit, or a cyst, typically maintain a particular size. Armpit lumps that continue to swell or grow can signal a tumor that may or may not be cancerous.

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Hard, Immovable Lump

A skin infection often produces lumps that are tender to the touch, soft, and movable. A hard lump in the armpit that does not move underneath the skin should be evaluated, namely because it has the potential to develop into a more severe infection. It could also indicate the presence of a tumor.

Longevity of a Lump

Bumps near the breast or in the armpit that are caused by cysts, an infection, shaving or a reaction to deodorant often heal after a few days or weeks. Armpit lumps that are persistent and do not heal or decrease in size over a longer period of time should be assessed by a medical professional.

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Formation of Additional Lumps

Breast tissue can extend up into the armpit region to produce lumps in the armpit area. While this is a fairly common occurrence, multiple hard lumps extending toward the breast that do not decrease in size or disappear after a few weeks may indicate the need for medical evaluation. A hard, enlarged lump near the breast or armpit does not always indicate a tumor. However, patients should take precaution and have the lump assessed by a medical professional to rule out underlying infections or disease.

It’s important to note that people of all genders can develop an armpit lump for a variety of reasons. Armpit lumps, or enlargements of one or both of the lymph nodes under the arm, can be cancerous, but lumps may also be an indication of a viral infection, such as shingles or chickenpox; a skin irritation stemming from shaving; an allergic reaction to deodorant or other products; or a cyst or boil.

Individuals with an existing armpit lump should know the symptoms associated with lumps indicative of cancerous cells, so that they can consult with a medical professional if needed. 

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