Lump in the Armpit: Causes and Treatment

An armpit lump refers to the enlargement of one or more of the lymph nodes under your arm. Lymph nodes are small, oval-shaped glands that are located all over the body. They play key role in the body system of your body.

The lump may feel small. In other cases, it may be very visible. Armpit lumps may be caused by antiperspirant or deodorant use, cysts, infection, or irritation due to shaving. In some cases, these lumps may also indicate a serious underlying health condition.

Seek medical attention if you have an armpit lump that gradually becomes enlarged, isn’t painful, or doesn’t go away.

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Causes of armpit lumps

Most lumps are harmless and are usually the result of abnormal growth of tissue. However, armpit lumps can be related to a more serious underlying health problem. See your doctor to check any unusual lumps you have.

The most common causes of armpit lumps are:

  • bacterial or viral infections
  • lipomas(harmless fat tissue growths)
  • allergic reactions
  • lupus(autoimmune disease that affects your joints and organs)
  • adverse reactions to vaccinations
  • fungal infections
  • a fibroadenoma (noncancerous fibrous tissue growth)
  • lymphoma(cancer of the lymphatic system)
  • a breast cancer response
  • leukemia(cancer of the blood cells)

Armpit lumps in women

Armpit lumps can occur in men and women of all ages. However, a lump under the arm could indicate breast cancer. Women should perform monthly breast self-exams and immediately report any breast lumps to a doctor.

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Breasts undergo hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle and may become more tender or lumpy during this period. For best results, perform breast self-exams about one to three days after your period ends.


The first step in detecting an armpit lump is a detailed physical examination. Your doctor will ask you questions about any changes in the lump, as well any pain you have in the area. Palpation, or massage, is used to determine the consistency and texture of the lump. This method is done using hand as the doctor gently examines the lymph nodes.

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In some cases, a physical exam may prove that the lump is benign and don’t require treatment because it resolves on its own. If a lump is painful, a doctor can recommend treatment options to remove it.

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Your doctor may order additional tests to rule out allergic reaction, infection, or cancerous changes. Your doctor may order a combination of the following diagnostic tests:

  • complete blood count to measure the number of red and white blood cells in your system
  • chest or breast X-ray (mammogram), which is an imaging test that allows your doctor to see the lump better
  • biopsy, which involves removing a small piece of tissue from the lump for testing
  • allergy testing

Treating armpit lumps

The treatment options that would be recommended by your doctor depends on the basic cause of the lump. Bacterial infections can be treated with oral antibiotics. After several days, the armpit lump should start to disappear as your body combats the infection. You may have to be hospitalized for intravenous (IV) antibiotics if the lump doesn’t respond to oral antibiotics.

If your lump is associated with allergies, it should decrease once you start medication and learn to avoid your allergy triggers.

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Lumps that don’t require treatment include those associated with:

  • lipomas
  • viral infections
  • fibroadenoma (noncancerous breast lumps)

In this case, you can use home remedies such as warm compresses and over-the-counter pain relievers to ease any discomfort.

If your armpit lumps are cancerous, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for further care. Treatment will depend on the type of cancer and what stage you’re in, and it may involve a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.


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