No, not every lump is cancerous. However, if you find or feel a new lump on your body, please seek medical attention.
A lump refers to any localised area of swelling and can occur anywhere in the body. It may or may not be painful. Some lumps that you may feel are:
- These are non-cancerous, closed pockets of tissue filled with fluid, pus or debris. They can appear anywhere in the body
- Skin cysts can feel like small peas under the skin
- Other cysts include Bakers cysts (a fluid filled bulge that forms behind the knee) or ganglion cysts, which are rounded lumps filled with a jelly-like fluid that develop along tendons and joints (most often at the top of the foot, top of the hand or back of the wrist)
- These are benign tumours made up of fatty tissue
- Lipoma feel like squishy balls of tissue that move easily, and occasionally can continue growing until a large size
- They are found mostly on the legs, torso and arms
- Lymph nodes are movable pea size lumps found throughout the body, mostly in the neck, groin, armpits and behind the collarbone
- Lymph nodes may be enlarged due to bacterial or viral infection. They may feel soft, rubbery and sometimes tender, normally in the armpits, neck or groin
- However, if the lymph node feels hard, rubbery or immovable, this may indicate a more serious condition (e.g. lymphoma or breast cancer which has spread to the lymph node)
Lumps in the breast
- Breast lumps are the most common symptom of breast cancer
- There are some benign conditions that can present as a lump in the breast, including cysts and fibroadenoma
- If you feel a breast lump, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis of breast cancer is crucial
Lumps in the neck
- Lumps which can be felt or noticed when swallowing can be a benign thyroid lump or a sign of thyroid cancer. This lump is felt at the front of the neck.
- A lump on the neck, typically on the side of the neck and just behind the ear towards the shoulder, may be a sign of nasopharyngeal cancer. 75% of newly diagnosed nasopharyngeal cancers present as a neck lump.
In general, lumps that are soft, mobile, located in the superficial or fat layer of skin, and grow large and painfully with activity and diminish in size with rest are usually benign lumps and not cause for concern.
Look out for the following red flags:
- A lump that appears spontaneously
- A hard immovable lump that is not tender
- Any lump that persists or seems to be growing
Nevertheless, every lump should be evaluated by your doctor.