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Female Breast
Female Breast


Lymphatic system
Lymphatic system


Swollen lymph nodes under arm
Swollen lymph nodes under arm


Definition:

An armpit lump refers to enlargement of one or more lymph nodes under the arm.



Alternative Names:

Lump in the armpit; Localized lymphadenopathy - armpit; Axillary lymphadenopathy; Axillary lymph enlargement; Lymph nodes enlargement - axillary; Axillary abscess



Considerations:

Lumps in the armpit have various causes. Cysts and infections on the surface of the skin of the armpit may be caused by shaving or use of antiperspirants (as opposed to deodorants). This occurs most frequently in adolescents just beginning to shave. Abscesses under the skin may also produce large, painful lumps in the armpit.

Lumps may occur when lymph nodes are swollen due to bacterial or viral infections, vaccinations , and cancer.

Lymph nodes are filters that can catch infectious organisms or cancerous tumor cells. When they do, lymph nodes increase in size and are easily felt. An armpit lump in a woman should be checked by a health care provider immediately, as it may be a sign of breast cancer.



Common Causes:

Home Care:

Home care depends on the reason for the lump. Check with your health care provider to determine the cause.



Call your health care provider if:

Call if you have any unexplained armpit lumps. Do not try to diagnose lumps without professional help.



What to expect at your health care provider's office:

Your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history and symptom, such as:

  • When did you first notice the lump?
  • Is it getting better, worse, or staying the same?
  • Are you breast-feeding?
  • Have you noticed any factors that make it worse?
  • What other symptoms are also present?
  • Is the lump painful?

The physical examination may include palpation -- gently pressing the nodes with the fingertips.

Testing depends on what is found during the physical examination. Tests that may be done include:

OUTLOOK

A lump in the armpit caused by a viral infection will eventually disappear without treatment. A lump in the armpit caused by an allergic reaction will go away after the "trigger" is removed. No treatment is necessary for a lump in the armpit caused by normal breast tissue. Usually, no treatment is necessary for a cyst.

A lump in the armpit caused by a lipoma is harmless, unless it grows so large that it causes discomfort.

The outlook for cancerous lumps depends on the specific type of cancer. See the following for more information:



Prevention:



References:

Armitage JO. Approach to the patient with lymphadenopathy and splenomegaly. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier. 2007: chap 174.

Camitta Bm. Lymphadenopathy. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th Ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 490.

Glover KY, Varadhachary GR, Lenzi R, Raber MN, Abbruzzese JL. Carcinoma of unknown primary. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa; Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2008: chap 98.




Review Date: 8/2/2009
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100