Armpit Lumps: 3 Reasons to See a Doctor Immediately

May 7th 2016

Treatable Conditions

Many relatively minor problems can cause a swelling in the armpit. These are usually painless, and they often go away on their own without treatment. Swellings caused by allergies can come on suddenly and go just as quickly. If your doctor suspects an allergic reaction as an underlying cause of the swelling, she is likely to order an allergy test to determine the allergen. Certain viral infections, such as mononucleosis, may also cause a harmless inflammation of the lymph nodes. As is the case with allergies, these swellings go away with time, though medication may also be prescribed.

Benign, Permanent Swellings

Some swellings do not subside on their own, though they cause no real harm. Lipomas, for example, are benign swellings of the lymph nodes that may last a lifetime, though they can be removed surgically if they cause discomfort. Sometimes, normal breast tissue grows into the armpit, resulting in a lump of fatty or glandular tissue. This is more common in women than in men, and it can be diagnosed with a tactile examination of the area. Fatty tissue tends to be soft all over, while glandular tissue has a rough, granulated texture.

Serious Conditions

On occasion, a lump in the armpit is the first sign of a serious medical condition. Breast cancer, for example, sometimes presents as a lump in the armpit. This is true even for male victims of the disease. Lymphomas are a very serious class of cancers that often start, or migrate to, the lymphatic system in and around the chest. The inflammatory stage of HIV infection can also trigger a sudden swelling under the arm.


Finding an unexplained lump in the armpit is one of life's more disturbing events. Most people who discover a swelling near the lymph nodes immediately think the worst, but the worst-case scenario is mercifully rare. For men, in particular, armpit lumps are often caused by harmless swellings of a lymph node. Allergies and viral infections are especially prone to causing such swellings. Despite the usually benign nature of swollen lymph nodes, there is always the possibility that the mass is a sign of a serious medical condition. As always, only a trained medical professional can make a definitive diagnosis, and it's important to know when to consult a doctor.

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