How To Tell If A Lump is Cancer (5 Body Lumps Explained)

Last updated: August 2, 2019

Contributed by:
Richard Honaker M.D.
Primary Care Physician
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If you have a lump and worry about cancer, it is time to get the facts. Lumps can certainly be serious, but many lumps can also be harmless to your health.

How do you tell the difference? Well, it can be difficult to diagnose any body lump. Might be time to talk to a doctor.

It is, however, important to know a bit more about lumps and bumps on your body. This is especially important for women who may be at increased risk for breast cancer.

Let’s take a deeper look at 5 types of body lumps, which may be a sign of cancer, and what lumps and bumps may be a sign of other things too.

1. Thyroid Nodules

Thyroid nodules are lumps that feel hard, but do not cause pain or move around when touched. They would be located on the lower part of your neck. The cause of thyroid nodules is actually unclear. However, if you are experiencing thyroid issues and symptoms, it may be best to talk to a doctor.

2. Cysts

Cysts can be found in the breast and genital region. They are like a soft grape to the touch and can be tender. Is it cancer? Most likely cysts are not, since they normally come and go with your cycle.

However, if one sticks around for a while, you might need to get an ultrasound or have a doctor perform an aspiration of the cyst. If you have a cyst for longer than a month, talk to a doctor.

Listen to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard A. Honaker explain lumps and bumps:

3. Lipomas

Lipomas pop up on legs and arms, and they feel like squishy tissue balls. They move around easily when touched, and often not painful. Interestingly, lipomas are genetic. If you are worried they are cancerous, no need.

But if they are painful, you should talk to a doctor. Lipomas can be a sign that a nerve or blood vessel is being aggravated. If this is the case, you may need it surgically removed.

4. Fibroadenomas

These lumps feel smooth and like rubber balls under the skin. They are commonly located in the breast region. Fibroadenomas causes are unknown, and they are mainly present in women between the ages of 20 and 30.

Talk to a doctor about this lump, because getting a diagnosis is important for women with any lumps in the breast region. If it is not cancer, they are often left as is, but can also be removed by a doctor.

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5. Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swollen lymph nodes are common in the neck, armpits, jaw, ears, and groin area. They are soft, move around, and can be tender to the touch. Why do swollen lymph nodes appear?

They can often be signs of a bacterial or viral infection. If swollen lymph nodes persist after a few weeks of beating the infection, it is time to talk to a doctor. Swollen lymph nodes can be a sign of cancer.

When to Talk to a Doctor About Your Lumps

Diagnosing lumps and bumps on your own can be challenging. If you are worried about cancer, or if you have a history of cancer in your family, talk to a doctor about the lump.  

Cancer or other serious lumps will have these signs:

  • Hard to the touch
  • Doesn’t move around
  • Not tender when touched
  • Any lump or bump in the breast or groin region
  • Lumps that grow quickly

Do you have questions about body lumps? Are you worried that your lump is cancer? Talk to a general physician doctor today via our FREE Dr. Chat. Simply click below and start chatting with a doctor in minutes.

Submitted by Dr. Richard Honaker:

Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.

About Richard Honaker M.D.

Dr. Richard Honaker has over 40 years of experience as a primary care physician specializing in several different areas of medicine. He is able to provide expert case review and analysis for insurance and workers compensation cases as well as providing online medical consultations as the Chief Medical Advisor for Your Doctors Online.

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