What Can a Lump Under the Arm Be?


A lump in your armpit can be cause for concern. On the other hand, it doesn't necessarily mean your worst fears of cancer will be realized. Of course, if you find any lumps in your armpit, check with your doctor for a proper diagnosis. It is always best to know what you are dealing with as early as possible.


The armpit contains your lymph nodes. If your body is fighting bacterial or viral infections, your lymph nodes may become swollen. The most common bacterial infections that cause a lump in your armpit are an arm or breast infection, cat scratch disease or ascending lymphangitis. Most bacterial infections can be treated with a round of antibiotics. When the infection clears, the lump should go away. Viral infections that lead to lymph swelling are AIDS, chickenpox, mononucleosis and shingles. Discuss your treatment options with your doctor.


Of course, the first thing people assume with any lump in the armpit or anywhere near the breast is cancer. Women should check with their doctor immediately if they find a lump in their armpit, and get tested for breast cancer. Other cancers in which a lump develops in the armpit are Hodgkin's lymphoma, leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. These are serious cancers that need immediate medical attention.

Harmless Lumps

It is possible to have lumps in your armpit that are harmless. You may have benign cysts; some people are prone to these. Fatty growths in your tissue, called lipomas, are also harmless. Many women may also have breast tissue that grows into the armpit area. While this tissue is harmless, it should be checked by a doctor to alleviate any concerns.

Allergic Reactions

Some vaccinations may lead to minor cyst formations. They can be common after measles and mumps immunizations. Although rare, this can also happen with rubella vaccines. The smallpox and typhoid vaccinations may also cause lumps to form under the arm. You may also have an allergic reaction to certain drugs such as sulfa, iodine and penicillin. As a result, your lymph nodes may swell as they try to fight what they believe is an infection in the body and produce high quantities of antibodies.

Give Your Doctor the Facts

When you see your doctor, try to have as much pertinent information as possible that will help him diagnose the lump quickly and properly. If you can avoid biopsy, you will be very pleased. Let your doctor know when the lump first appeared and if it is getting larger, smaller or remaining the same. Be sure to let your doctor know if you are breast feeding as this may increase the possibility of fatty deposits. If you are experiencing any other symptoms, let your doctor know. Other symptoms may include fatigue, nausea or fever.

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