Noticing a lump under the skin can be a frightening experience. After all, everyone has heard of someone diagnosed with cancer after finding a strange lump, and our minds have a tendency towards worst case scenarios. Fortunately, all our catastrophisizing is usually pointless, as these lumps are far more likely to be the result of a totally benign cause such as one of the following:
Skin Lump from Epidermoid Cyst
Epidermoid cysts (also known as skin or sebaceous cysts) are small, round, hard lumps that most often develop within a hair follicle. They may result from trauma to the skin, infection, sun exposure or acne and are most often comprised of the skin cell protein, keratin. Common locations for these cysts are the head and face, back, neck and genital regions. When squeezed, they will produce a thick, white discharge.
Skin Lump from Lipoma
Lipomas are soft lumps of fatty tissue under the skin that can grow slowly over a long period of time. While you may hear them referred to as "soft tissue tumors," they are nearly always benign and harmless. Most remain small and unobtrusive. Others, however, can grow to several inches and may need to be removed due to their location, cosmetic concerns, or compression of nerves. Common locations for lipomas include the trunk, neck, shoulders, and armpits.
Skin Lump from Dermatofibroma
Dermatofibromas are round bumps on the skin that appear brownish-red in color. The bumps are firm and may bleed when cut or scratched. They can also be itchy and tender to the touch. However, these growths are benign and are often the result of previous trauma to the skin such as a bug bite. Their most common locations are on the arms and legs. While they typically do not require removal, there are options for patients who find them bothersome.
Diagnosing a Skin Lump
While these lumps, like most, are the result of benign causes, it is important to have any skin changes examined by a physician. Many skin changes, even those that are benign, can cause cosmetic concerns that a doctor will be able to address and correct. Most can be quickly and safely removed by a general surgeon in an outpatient setting.