I have three painful lumps under my right arm in the armpit. I have taken antibiotics and used heat to try and bring it out but had no luck. Please let me know the tests required to detect the cause.

There could be several reasons for a lump under the armpit. A lump under the armpit refers to the enlargement of one or more lymph nodes under the arms. It is important however, to know about the various causes of a lump under the armpit, as one of them could be cancer. More often than not, this lump under the armpit is not due to anything serious and will disappear with proper treatment. Do remember that both men and women can suffer with painful lumps in the armpit. The causes for both sexes are the same. Some of the reasons for a lump under the armpit include:-

  • Shaving or the use of antiperspirants: This is one of the most common causes of lumps in the armpit, particularly in adolescents who have just started shaving. The lump occurs due to various cysts and infections. A cyst in the armpit is an elevated bump on the skin. It occurs due to ingrown hair or due to the excessive use of antiperspirants. Such bumps usually heal by themselves.
  • Bacteria or viruses: The lymph nodes swell up when the body is affected by viruses or any bacteria. This swelling may be due to cancer or vaccinations. A lump under the armpit may occur when the lymph nodes swell up. Viral infections are serious and therefore lumps that occur due to viral infections need medical attention. Some viral infections that can cause painful lumps in the armpit are shingles (herpes zoster), chickenpox, HIV/AIDS and infectious mononucleosis among others. Any type of bacterial infection will make the lymph nodes well. Fungal infections like porotrichosis and bacterial infections like cat scratch disease also result in enlarged lymph nodes.
  • Cancer: This is the most common cause of painful and hard lumps in the armpits, especially for women. The abnormal growth of breast tissue may continue right up to the armpit. It is therefore vital to check for other lumps around and in the breast. Once again, certain diseases like Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukemia may also result in the lymph nodes being swollen, leading to a painful lump in the armpit.
  • Hyperthyroidism: A swollen lump in the armpit can also be due to hyperthyroidism. This condition occurs when there is an overproduction of the thyroid hormones in the thyroid gland. The glands in the armpit swell and this could be mistaken for a lump. Apart from this swollen gland or lump, other symptoms the person may experience include weakness, fever, fatigue, sweating, and an irregular heartbeat and so on.
  • Connective tissue disease: This could be another reason for swollen lymph nodes in the armpit. This occurs when there is a degeneration of connective tissue in the body.

Treatment for a lump under the armpit depends on the cause. If it is due to a minor cause like shaving, as mentioned above, the lump will usually go away within 2-3 days. If the lump does not disappear within this period and continues to be painful, it is essential to seek medical advice. Various kinds of tests will be carried out for diagnosis. The doctor will first perform a physical examination and you will probably be asked any of the following questions:-

  • When did the lump first appear/when did you first notice it?
  • Is the lump painful?
  • Are there any other symptoms?
  • Does any other factor aggravate the condition?
  • Are you breastfeeding?
  • Is the lump getting better or worse or even just, staying the same?

The various tests that may be recommended by the doctor, depends on his/her findings during this physical examination. These tests may include:-

  • Kidney function tests
  • An x-ray of the chest
  • Mammogram
  • Liver-spleen scan
  • Liver function tests
  • A complete blood count (CBC)
  • Platelet count

answered by G M

The best way to draw out the infection and eliminate the lumps is to go to the pharmacy and purchase an ointment called draw out salve. It's a black tar type of ointment, it will draw out the infection, be sure to apply a bandage to it as it stains clothes.

answered by C

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