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Notice an armpit lump? Do not ignore it, warns doctor

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My friend recently sent in a photograph that left me worried for her! It was an unusual swelling, an armpit lump! “Could it be breast cancer?” That was the question she asked, pushing me to think how we humans have a tendency to think of the worst even at the slightest of health concerns. She had been ignoring a smaller version of the lump for a long time, but this sudden enlargement got her worried, naturally. That’s when we set out to find out about armpit lump causes, diagnosis and treatment.

We reached out to Dr Ch. Syama Sundari, MD,DNB (DVL) Consultant Dermatologist and Cosmetologist, Ramesh Sangamithra Hospital, Ongole, Bengaluru, to find out more about armpit lump.

“Well, a lump or swelling is a common presenting problem. sometimes a lump may also be found incidentally by the examining clinician in the course of routine examination,” the expert told Health Shots.

A swelling in the underarm area or armpit feels like a discrete lump, rather than diffused swelling across the entire area.

“It’s possible that there are other symptoms in addition to a lump in your armpit. The medical name for armpit is axilla, so armpit lump is also called as axillary swelling,” added the doctor.

Armpit swelling can flare up with time
Armpit swelling can flare up with time. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What are likely causes of armpit lump?

Well, the reasons can be many, but some factors warrant greater caution. Ignoring it is not your option!

“Any lump deserves serious consideration and should be examined. It’s important to see your doctor to seek prompt medical care if unresolving armpit lump doesn’t go away within a couple of weeks or gets bigger,” says Dr Sundari.

Lumps may occur due to one of the following reasons:

1. Reactive lymph nodes (most common cause) which may have infective, inflammatory and metastatic origin
2. Lipoma, abscess, hematoma, epidermoid inclusion cyst and sebaceous cyst
3. Hidradenitis suppurativa, Langerhans histiocytosis
4. Benign and metastatic neoplasms (lymphomas, leukemia, etc)
5. Extra axillary masses
6. Congenital and developmental anomalies

When should you worry about armpit lump?

A few symptoms associated with an armpit lump may be reason enough for you to give it immediate medical attention. This may include:

1. The presence of a hard fixed mass or lump
2. If it is associated with a breast lump
3. If there is persistent unresponsive swelling for over 3 weeks
4. In case you have an abnormal chest X-ray
5. Association of systemic symptoms such as fever, night sweats, malaise or weight loss

Also read: Get rid of armpit fat in a jiffy with these 7 exercises

Breast lump
Be mindful of a breast lump. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How is armpit lump diagnosed?

A clinician typically examines the patient systematically and attains initial diagnosis or differential diagnosis. This initial diagnosis helps to plan the management after discussing with the patient which may vary from the reassurance or no treatment to urgent referral for surgery.

To confirm the cause of the lump, several investigations like Ultrasonogram, Fine needle aspiration (FNA) or Core biopsy may be needed for diagnosis. They will help the clinician in guiding the management of an axillary mass by reaching final diagnosis.

* In general, management of a majority of armpit lumps may not need active treatment, except for periodic follow-up.
* For lumps like sebaceous cyst, lipomas, epidermoid cysts, excision biopsy is the choice of the treatment.
* In case of abscess, incision and drainage under antibiotic cover has to be done.
* In case of reactive lymphadenopathy seen in cases of TB/HIV/sarcoidosis, medical management based on the diagnosis has to be done.

Hidradenitis suppurativa is one of the dermatological condition which usually starts as one or more red, painful swellings in armpits. It affects the apocrine glands and is a chronic condition. Management of hidradenitis involves wide range from medical to surgical modalities in recalcitrant
cases.

The last word

All said and done, one thing is clear that seeking your doctor’s advice. is the only way to know what is causing an armpit lump or swelling. The sooner you seek medical care and get the necessary treatment, the better it would be for the sake of your health.



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