The moment you discover bumps or lumps under skin, first thing that comes on your mind is: what the hell is this, could it be cancer? Well, it is common to experience scary feelings but the truth is most lumps under the skin are benign harmless and can be treated easily or even left alone. There might be nothing to worry about but it is wise to confirm the diagnosis with the doctor so you don’t have to regret later. Never diagnose yourself by just looking at the pictures you find online.

What are the possible causes of lumps under the skin?

There are several causes of lumps under the skin; most of the cases are harmless while few may be harmful. The lump may be any of the following:

Lipoma is one of the most common causes of lumps under skin. Lipomas are small, fatty masses that are harmless to your health. Your lump may be a lipoma if it feels soft and rolls easily under your skin.

Cysts are closed sac that can be found in or under the skin containing fluid or semisolid material. The inner contents may be yellow in color and can be removed easily with minor surgical extraction. Most of these cysts are harmless and may require no treatment.

Enlarged lymph nodes
Enlarged lymph nodes are often seen in the neck armpit and the groin. Enlarged lymph nodes can be caused by simple infections like cold and flu or acute injury and bacterial infection. In rare cases it can also be caused due to chronic diseases like cancer and HIV. They usually disappear once the infection subsides. However, if the swelling persists or gets worse, it may suggest something more serious like lymphoma.


Abscess is generally painful swelling resulting from collection of fluid or pus that is trapped inside a closed space. It is generally due to acute injury, bacteria or parasites. One may experience raised, red, hot and pain in the affected area and sometime associated with yellowish tip.

Malignant tumor

Although the possibilities for malignant tumor are less, one must still rule out the possibility of its malignancy. Fortunately, lumps under skin are rarely cancerous but one must always keep in mind of the following possibilities:

Soft tissue sarcoma
Soft tissue sarcoma is the cancer of the tissues underneath the skin, and may cause a lump almost anywhere on the body.

Lymphoma (not to confuse with harmless lipoma) this is cancer of the lymph glands, and causes a painless swelling in the neck, armpit or groin.

Ganglion is cysts that are commonly seen around the joints and tendons. Most commonly seen on the back of the wrist, the cyst is smooth and soft lump under the skin. Inside the cyst is a thick jelly-like fluid. The ganglion can be removed if its causing you discomfort, otherwise it can be left alone.

Hernias are small soft swelling that can be seen around the groin or the lower abdomen. It results in bulging of the abdominal content due to weak muscle wall of the affected area. Generally hernia is not that serious, but medical consultation is very important to avoid complications like strangulation.


Interesting facts about the lumps

  • Lumps that are movable are less likely to be dangerous than the fixed ones.
  • Soft lumps are less likely to be dangerous than the hard ones.
  • Painful lumps are less dangerous than the painless ones.
  • Smooth lumps are less dangerous than the rough ones.
  • Lumps that appear suddenly are less likely to be dangerous.
  • Lumps that grow rapidly are less likely to be dangerous.

Warning: These guidelines in most cases are true, but don’t apply in all the cases. If you are worried visit your doctor immediately.

In general lumps and swelling under skin may be classified according to the area affected

Lumps on facial areas

  • Mumps
  • Angioedema
  • Dental abscess
  • Salivary gland stone

Lump in the neck or throat

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Cysts
  • Skin tags
  • Goitre

Lump in the armpits

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lymphoma

Lump on the shoulder, back, chest and arms

  • Lipomas
  • Epidermal or pilar cysts

Lump in the breast

  • Enlarged milk ducts
  • Fibroadenomas
  • Mastitis
  • Cysts
  • Skin Tags
  • Lipomas

Lump on the hand, wrist or finger

  • Ganglion
  • Warts

Lump around the groin area

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Cysts
  • Hernia
  • Saphena varix
  • Genital warts

Lump or swelling in the testicle

  • Varicocele
  • Hydrocele
  • Epididymal cyst

Lump around the anus

  • Abscess
  • Haemorroids
  • Rectal prolapse
  • Skin tags
  • Genital warts