This week our resident professional pharmacist, Boitumelo Ntsoane, gives tips on how to spot different types of lumps 

Our bodies experience a lot of things on a daily sometimes changes happen to our bodies and we just think this is out of place, this shouldn’t be here and one of those things are lumps. As per oxford dictionary lumps are swellings under the skin, formed by a compact mass of substance that creates a definite shape and is usually caused by injury or disease. Most people either panic or assume the worst when they see lumps on their bodies and sometimes there is just nothing to worry about. 

There are different types of lumps all over the body. They all have their own distinctive 

characteristics. You have your serious lumps, not-so-serious and your life-threatening lumps. The not-so-serious lumps are normally soft and can move and change form, they have an ability to grow large and have intense pain with activity but decrease in size with rest. These are usually very simple to treat and normally clear away on their own. But these lumps are not all this harmless and simple sometimes they could be alarming and life-threatening. These lumps can be cancerous, making something simple difficult. 

There are six known different types of lumps firstly being a lump which is a form of a  dimpling of the overlying skin, secondly is the fatty lumps which found below skin, thirdly are your pebble shaped mobile lumps which develop under the skin with a yellow colour forming, fourthly are those lumps occurring in clusters known to be contagious and occur in diseases like herpes, fifthly is the harmless lumps formed from the collection of blood vessels making it a red or purple colour and lastly are your well-known cancerous lumps that grow rapidly and feel hard and  does not move. All these can happen on different parts of the body in all sorts of shapes and sizes, below is a list of all those areas. 

  1. Face

Most lumps on face are caused by injury but if it was not caused by injury, it is very likely to be caused by an allergic reaction which can be caused by reaction to things like peanuts which can be easily solved by an over-the-counter drug. 

It can also be caused by a dental issue that can result in the side of the mouth swelling up. And thirdly caused by stone like objects which are caused by crystallization of chemicals which block the flow of saliva from salivary gland causing pain and swelling around the jaw. Mumps may also occur which is swelling of the salivary glands due to infection, these are very common in kids. 

  • Throat or neck 

This is commonly caused by swelling up of lymph nodes or thyroid gland, or formation of fluid filled harmless lump which may disappear on its own without treatment. 

  • Hand, wrist or fingers 

This is caused by a collection of substances that form around the joints and tendons, it normally feels smooth with soft lump under skin. 

  • Shoulder, back, chest or arm 

A collection of fat under the skin is most likely to be the cause, it is soft and you can feel it under the skin. 

  • Armpits

Caused by swollen lymph gland, it’s very uncommon for it to be cancerous, its sometimes due to infection but lump usually goes away when then infection does. 

  • Breast  

This one is every woman’s biggest fear; a lump in the breast doesn’t always mean it is cancer. It is highly important that you consult your health practitioner should you feel a lump in your breast as soon as possible. They will do further tests to ensure if it is cancerous or not. Lumps in breast may also be caused by infection that makes the breast tissue swell which is normally a harmless growth found underneath the breast. Lumps are usually not painful but feel firm. 

  • Testes 

This can be due to swelling of the scrotum, build-up of fluid around testicles. It is important for any man who feels a strange lump on testicles to go see their doctor immediately. 

  • Anus

These lumps are usually common when individual has piles where a blood vessel is swollen, a collection of pus forming abscess or even a skin tag. 

All these lumps can be different colours ranging from yellow, red to even purple. It is always a good idea to go to your doctor immediately when you notice these features, especially if a lump comes with fever, discharge, changes in shape, disappearing acts or even when it feels hard or painful. These may be due to a more serious underlying cause. 

Lumps can be treated, most of these are treated with broad spectrum antibiotics to attack the infection and lump. The underlying cause can also be treated for example with lumps caused by allergies antihistamines would be used instead of antibiotics. Some lumps even go away on their own with a little help from RICE (rest, ice, compress and elevation). Surgery may also be used to remove the lump or even drain it. They are a lot of treatment options available, however the earlier you consult your health practitioner, the higher the chances that appropriate medical intervention can be recommended to avoid further complications.


Boitumelo Ntsoane is a Rhodes University graduate and is the Managing Director of the Pretoria-based Onpoint Healthcare. She’s on