An armpit lump is a swelling or bump under the arm. A lump in the armpit can have many causes. These include swollen lymph nodes, infections, or cysts.
Lump in the armpit; Localized lymphadenopathy - armpit; Axillary lymphadenopathy; Axillary lymph enlargement; Lymph nodes enlargement - axillary; Axillary abscess
Lumps in the armpit may have many causes.
Lymph nodes act as filters that can catch germs or cancerous tumor cells. When they do, lymph nodes increase in size and are easily felt. Reasons lymph nodes in the armpit area may be enlarged are:
- Arm or breast infection
- Some bodywide infections, such as mono, AIDS, or herpes
- Cancers, such as lymphomas or breast cancer
Cysts or abscesses under the skin may also produce large, painful lumps in the armpit. These may be caused by shaving or use of antiperspirants (not deodorants). This is most often seen in teens just beginning to shave.
Other causes of armpit lumps may include:
- Cat scratch disease
- Lipomas (harmless fatty growths)
- Use of certain medicines or vaccinations
Home care depends on the reason for the lump. Check with your health care provider to determine the cause.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
An armpit lump in a woman may be a sign of breast cancer, and it should be checked by a provider right away.
Call your provider if you have an unexplained armpit lump. Do not try to diagnose lumps by yourself.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your provider will examine you and gently press on the nodes. You will be asked questions about your medical history and symptoms, such as:
- When did you first notice the lump? Has the lump changed?
- Are you breastfeeding?
- Is there anything that makes the lump worse?
- Is the lump painful?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
You may need more tests, depending on the results of your physical exam.
Armitage JO, Bierman PJ. Approach to the patient with lymphadenopathy and splenomegaly. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 168.
Miyake KK, Ikeda DM. Mammographic and ultrasound analysis of breast masses. In: Ikeda DM, Miyake KK, eds. Breast Imaging: The Requisites. 3rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 4.
Tower RL, Camitta BM. Lymphadenopathy. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 490.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.