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5 Tips: I Found a Lump on my Body, Should I Worry?

Lump on Skin
This is a contributing guest post by Atrium Health’s Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Joshua Patt, MD, MPH, FAOA who actively serves on the Move For Jenn Foundation Board. Find out more about Dr. Patt.

Discovering Skin Lumps

Discovering new skin lumps or bumps on your arm or leg can be worrisome and many times be met with a range of emotions from anxiety (“Oh no, it must be cancer!”) to complete denial (“It’s probably nothing or has been there for a while”). It’s easy to jump to conclusions when discovering new bumps on the skin, and you might assume it to be a cancer lump. Being able to identify potential skin cancer symptoms is important. It may be hard to decipher whether or not the lump or bump looks harmful to the typical eye, which is why it’s important to talk with your doctor about lumps that are growing in size, or are painful, regardless of where they are located on your body.

Tips On Identifying Lumps

If you keep a few simple rules in mind, you can avoid panic and denial and live comfortably in the middle. Keep in mind, while these tips are helpful in identifying newly discovered lumps or bumps on your body, it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor who can recommend the best course of action.

  1. Identifying Skin Lumps

    How big is your lump? Rule of thumb is, if it is bigger than a golf ball, you should probably see your primary care doctor to have it evaluated.

  2. What Does the Bump Feel Like?

    Is your lump hard or soft? The most common soft tissue masses found are lipomas (simple fatty masses). These are generally soft and feel the same throughout. If it is hard or not all the same, you should seek medical attention.

  3. Appearance Of Lump 

    Do you have raised bumps on skin? There are two different kinds of lumps, superficial and deep. When you have a superficial lump, it means it is very close to the skin surface and usually feels like you can put your fingers around it. A deep lump means it is inside or deep to a muscle and the borders are usually less obvious.

  4. Changing Lump Size

    Has your lump changed in size? If you notice a small mass and it does not have any of the concerning features mentioned here, simply observing it can be key.  If possible, take a picture of the lump/s or use a ruler or tape measurer to record the size.  Then pick a set time to reevaluate it and re-measure. Relying solely on your memory can quickly lead to anxiety and panic. A mass that is growing should be evaluated. A mass that is getting smaller is unlikely to be a cause for concern.

  5. Associated Lump Pain

    Does your lump hurt? While a simple lipoma usually does not hurt, the bad type of masses, called sarcomas, do not usually hurt either. Please refer to the chart below regarding signs of sarcoma, and sarcoma symptoms. Many people who delay their first visit to the doctor about a mass, do so because they figure it must not be bad if it doesn’t hurt. Surprisingly, it is usually the opposite; painful masses are uncommonly cancerous. They are more frequently infectious or vascular masses like hemangiomas. 

Don’t Ignore Your Lumps & Bumps

So, what are the next steps after finding a new lump or bump on your body? Don’t ignore it if you are concerned about a mass that you have found for any of the above reasons or any other reason. It is usually easiest to see your primary care doctor first for an initial visit. If they see anything concerning or atypical, they should consider imaging (either an ultrasound or MRI) to determine what it is, and referral to a specialist should occur if the imaging is also concerning.

Sarcoma Cancer Signs and Symptoms

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