Identifying Skin Bumps And When It Needs Medical Intervention

When we notice an unusual bump or a lump on the skin surface, we often hit the panic button too soon. But, that’s not a bad thing, as such abnormalities are best treated when they’re detected at the earliest. They often leave us worrying what it could be or if it is cancerous.

Although it is best to have your doctor examine it and diagnose the problem, some pointers mentioned here can help you find out if the abnormal bump or lump is a cause for concern. Most of these lumps and bumps are often non-threatening, but it helps to know which are harmless and which require immediate medical attention.


1. A Marble-Sized Lump

A marble sized lump may be caused due to a cyst or a lipoma

If you notice a lump about the size of a marble, the main cause is probably a cyst or a lipoma. Both are non-cancerous and likely to show up almost anywhere. Lipomas are slow-growing soft tissue tumors often located in the subcutaneous tissues of the head, neck, shoulders, and back.


This slow-growing, mostly benign, tumors usually present as non-painful, round, mobile masses with a characteristic soft, doughy feel.1 Cysts occur when dead skin cells are trapped under a clogged pore. Lipomas and cysts generally disappear on their own without needing medical attention.

When It Needs Medical Intervention

You must consult your doctor if either of the conditions persists for over two months or become evidently larger to ensure that they are not cancerous. But, if they show signs of redness, tenderness, or pus, it may indicate an infection, which is often treated with antibiotics or may be surgically removed.


2. A Lump In the Breast

Most lumps on the breasts are non-cancerous lesions

Many women experience a lump in their breast and may be alarmed that it could be breast cancer. But, benign lesions are far more common than malignant lesions. Of all breast lumps, 60 to 80 percent are benign.2 The lump may be because of one of three non-cancerous reasons, which include,

  • Fibroadenoma, which is a movable mass of hard, rubbery tissue of any size that is usually seen in women in their 20s and 30s, often due to hormones.
  • A cyst, which usually feels like a soft grape but may sometimes be as hard as a marble, depending on the fluid it contains. Cysts mainly occur in women over 40 years of age.
  • Fibrocystic breast change, which is a combination of fibrous tissue and many very small cysts that affect half of the female population.

When It Needs Medical Intervention

If the lump remains for more than two menstrual cycles, it is time to consult your doctor. But, if you notice a new discrete lump, it is better to get a biopsy, especially if you’re past your early 20s.

3. A Big Pimple On The Chest

A pimple-like formation on the chest may be due to basal cell carcinoma


Some women may notice a pimple-like formation on their chest. But, this could be a very common type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma, which is the most common malignancy, especially in light-skinned people.3

Carcinomas develop at a very slow pace and it could be years before it becomes raised, round, and pearly with visible blood vessels and a rolled border around the lump. Treatment during its initial stages is almost 95 percent effective and may involve a scalpel or a laser removal, which leaves no scarring.


When It Needs Medical Intervention

If the sore or lesion doesn’t heal soon, it may be a warning sign of any skin cancer. It is generally observed on areas of the skin that is exposed to the sun, such as the face, chest, upper back, arms, and back of the hands and may occasionally cause bleeding or itchiness. Get it examined by your doctor if it doesn’t disappear in a month.

4. A Pea-Sized Lump In The Neck

A pea-sized lump on the neck or other parts of the body may be lymph nodes


A small, pea-sized lump that appears almost anywhere on the body, but generally near the neck is what the doctors refer to as a lymph node. These hard, movable, pea-sized nodules are often noticed near the neck, groin, armpits, and behind the collarbone. They are part of the lymph system, which carries lymph fluid, nutrients, and waste material between the body tissues and the bloodstream.4

They help to filter out toxins and dead blood cells. A common cold or a minor bacterial infection may cause your lymph nodes to swell as they begin to accumulate dead cells. Different nodes react to various parts of your body. For instance, an infected finger wound may cause an enlarged lymph node in your armpit. However, there is no reason to be alarmed, as the node will return to its original size in a few weeks.

When It Needs Medical Intervention

If the swollen lymph node persists or becomes bigger than a pea and remains that way for over two weeks, or if you notice multiple swollen lymph nodes, you must consult a doctor. Usually, antibiotics are prescribed to reduce the size and severity. But, if it grows to the size of a cherry tomato, it may need a biopsy to ascertain if it’s cancerous.

5. A Squishy Cyst In The Vagina

A squishy cyst in the vagina may be due to a clogged Bartholin duct

Occasionally, some women may notice a soft, squishy cyst in their vagina. This is most often caused because of a clogged Bartholin duct. Bartholin’s duct cysts and gland abscesses are common problems in women of reproductive age. These normally pea-sized glands are palpable only if the duct becomes cystic or a gland abscess develops.5

When the lubrication secreted in the vagina gets trapped in the duct, it results in a soft, squishy cyst that appears near the vaginal opening. However, they’re typically benign and usually don’t need treatment. Often, sitting in a warm bath for 20 minutes twice or thrice a day can help unplug the duct.

When It Needs Medical Intervention

In case the cyst causes pain or grows noticeably in size, you must consult your gynecologist and may have to undergo a procedure called marsupialization. It involves draining the cyst and sewing the cyst wall to the outer skin to create a new duct. This should heal within a month’s time.

6. Bunion On The Feet

A bunion is often caused because of arthritis

Some people may notice that their big toe is turning towards the other smaller toes and the joint behind the toe has swollen. This is called as a bunion, which is an enlargement of bone or tissue at the bottom joint causing your toe to angle inwards.6

According to experts, the main reason for this condition is arthritis. This condition may be caused due to heredity or because of your footwear. Often, your footwear is the culprit. Elevating and icing the bunion for 20 minutes or applying an analgesic ointment may help relieve the condition.

When It Needs Medical Intervention

You must consult a podiatrist if ointments or ice packs are unsuccessful in reducing the swelling and pain. Doctors generally inject an anti-inflammatory drug or may perform a bunion surgery. However, it may take up to a year for it to fully recover and there’s no guarantee it will completely relieve your pain.