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Painless lumps or swollen glands

Most lumps under the skin or swollen glands are not cause for serious concern.

Noncancerous (benign) growths are usually harmless. A benign growth may be:

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  • A lipoma, a smooth, rubbery, dome-shaped lump that is easily movable under the skin.
  • A cyst, a sac of fluid and debris that sometimes hurts.
  • A ganglion, a soft, rubbery lump (a type of cyst) on the front or back of the wrist.
  • A sebaceous cyst, which often appears on the scalp, ears, face, and back.
  • A thyroid nodule, an abnormal growth on the thyroid gland, in the neck just below the Adam's apple.
  • An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which can cause a lump in the neck.

Children often have small, hard, swollen glands that last for weeks after they recover from minor illnesses, such as a cold or sore throat.

Most lumps are not caused by cancer. A lump that is caused by cancer is usually painless, hard, irregularly shaped, and firmly fixed to the skin or deep in tissue.

Author Jan Nissl, RN, BS
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Tracy Landauer
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology
Last Updated May 6, 2009

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 06, 2009
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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