Know Your Lumps and Bumps

We’d all love smooth, flawless skin, but the human body just isn’t like that. Lumps and bumps pop up at random, often right where we don’t want them. What’s most important is to know whether your lump is harmless or something to keep a close eye on.

The good news is that most of the lumps and bumps we produce, aren’t signs of cancer. But this doesn’t mean that you can totally forget about them. ‘Make an appointment with your GP to have yours checked out,’ says Mr Ash Mosahebi, Consultant Plastic Surgeon. ‘They will have seen a lot of lumps in their time, so this should help put your mind at rest.’

Signs you should see a doctor about your lump

  1. If a new lump has appeared, or an existing lump is changing, ask yourself these questions every day or so (more often if the lump is changing).
  2. Is your lump growing quickly?
  3. Is it hot, red and pus-filled?
  4. Is it getting slowly bigger?
  5. Is it painful?
  6. Is it bleeding?

If the answer is yes to two or three of these questions (or more), make an appointment to see your GP.

Worried your lump or bump is cancer?

Most of us worry about cancer, especially if there’s a lump involved.  If your GP thinks the risk is relatively low, they will probably suggest waiting and watching, and going back to them if anything changes.

If your GP thinks that you might have a slow-developing cancer they may make a non-urgent referral to a cancer specialist. If they are concerned about a possible cancerous growth, they’ll make an urgent referral to a cancer specialist. You should have an appointment within two weeks.

A quick tour of lumps and bumps

Benign tumors

Lipoma are soft lumps that often appear just under your skin – usually on your neck, shoulders, chest, back, arms, buttocks or thighs. Haemangioma are soft tissue tumours are formed from blood vessels. They’re sometimes known as strawberry birthmarks. They can appear at any age, though, and pretty much anywhere on your body, ‘Haemangiomas rarely cause any problems, but if you don’t like them, you can have them removed, ‘explains Mr Dirk Strauss, Consultant Surgical Oncologist and General Surgeon.

Neurofibromas are benign tumours grows on nerves. You may have one on its own, but if you have the genetic condition neurofribromatosis, you may have a lot. The good news is, they aren’t usually cancerous. There are two types of neurofibromatosis, type 1 and type 2.  Type 1 is the most common.

If you only have one or a few bumps, you can have cosmetic surgery to remove them. (If you have a lot of these bumps talk to your GP).

Bumps around the body

Abscess These beauties don’t have much to recommend them. Sore, tender, red bumps, they often pop up in your armpits or your groin area, where you have plenty of sweat glands. The main culprits behind abscesses are bacterial infections, although they can be caused by an unpleasant condition called hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), that causes cysts, blackheads and boils.

Your abscess may drain away on it’s own, but if it doesn’t, you may need to have it drained surgically. If you keep having abscesses see your GP. They might recommend antibiotics, to help prevent them returning.

Ganglion Cyst These usually appear around joints and tendons – hands and wrists are favourite spots. They look as though they’re fluid-filled, and can feel spongy or hard. These cysts are harmless, but may feel uncomfortable if they pop up on a joint. Ask your GP about having your cyst drained or removed surgically.

Thyroid Gland Lumps Two types of lumps are linked to your thyroid. A goitre is a swelling at the front of your neck. Around 1 in 20 could be connected to thyroid cancer. Thyroid nodules show as lumps at the front of your neck, and may hurt when you swallow. If you have either of these, it’s a good idea to see your GP

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