Skin Lumps: Cysts, Lipomas & Moles
Skin lumps are very common. Most people will have at least one at some point in their lives. They can occur anywhere on the body and range in size from tiny bumps to large, unsightly masses.
They are usually benign (non-cancerous) and cause no symptoms. However, some skin lumps can be cancerous or precancerous and should be checked by a doctor. It’s important to know the difference so you can get the appropriate treatment, if necessary.
Types of skin lumps
There are many different types of skin lumps. The most common are:
These are fluid-filled sacs that can form under the skin. They are usually benign, but they can become infected and cause pain or swelling. Cysts can occur anywhere on the body but are most common on the face, neck, and back.
The most common type of cyst is a sebaceous cyst, which forms when the sebaceous glands (oil-producing glands in the skin) become clogged. Sebaceous cysts are usually small (less than 5 cm) and round. They are often filled with pus and can be painful to the touch.
Other types of cysts include:
- Pilar cysts: These are also called trichilemmal cysts and are most common on the scalp. They are usually small (less than 5 cm) and round.
- Dermoid cysts: These can occur anywhere on the body but are most common on the face, neck, and back. They are usually larger (5-10 cm) and oval-shaped. Dermoid cysts can contain hair, teeth, or bone.
- Epidermoid cysts: These are also called epithelial inclusion cysts and are most common on the face, neck, chest, and back. They are small (less than 5 cm) and round.
- Pilonidal cysts: These are most common near the tailbone at the top of the buttocks. They are usually small (less than 5 cm) and round.
Cysts can be removed surgically or drained with a needle. If a cyst is infected, it will need to be treated with antibiotics first.
These are soft, fatty lumps that are usually harmless. Lipomas can occur anywhere on the body but are most common on the trunk, shoulders, and neck. They are usually benign and slow-growing.
There are two main types of lipoma:
- Subcutaneous lipoma: This type of lipoma is located under the skin. It is the most common type of lipoma and is usually small (less than 5 cm).
- Intramuscular lipoma: This type of lipoma is located in the muscles. It is less common than subcutaneous lipoma and can be larger (5-10 cm). Intramuscular lipomas can be painful if they press on nerves.
Lipomas can be removed surgically or with needle aspiration (draining the contents with a needle). Many people choose to leave them alone as they pose no threat. However, if a lipoma is large or causing pain, you may need to have it removed with surgery.
These are dark spots on the skin that can be raised or flat. Moles can occur anywhere on the body but are most common on the face, neck, chest, and back.
Types of moles include:
- Congenital moles: These are present at birth or develop in the first few months of life. They can be any size or shape and are usually benign.
- Acquired moles: These develop later in life and are more likely to be cancerous.
- Pigmented nevi: These are dark moles that can occur anywhere on the body. They are usually benign but can sometimes become cancerous.
- Atypical nevi: These are abnormal moles that may be larger than average, have irregular borders, and are multi-coloured. They have a higher risk of becoming cancerous.
Most moles are benign (non-cancerous) but some can be cancerous. Benign moles are usually small and dark, while cancerous moles are larger and can be any colour. Moles can be removed surgically or with laser therapy, but it’s important to have them checked by a doctor first to make sure they are not cancerous.
These are small, fleshy lumps that hang off the skin. They are usually benign (non-cancerous) but can become irritated if they catch on clothing or jewellery. Skin tags can occur anywhere on the body but are most common on the neck, armpits, and groin.
These are small, hard lumps that are caused by viruses. They are most common on the hands and feet but can occur anywhere on the body. The various types of warts include:
- Common warts: These are small, flesh-coloured lumps that can have a rough surface. They are most common on the hands and feet.
- Plantar warts: These are similar to common warts but occur on the soles of the feet. They can be painful when walking or standing.
- Flat warts: These are small, flat lumps that can occur in clusters. They are most common on the face, neck, and legs.
- Genital warts: These are small, fleshy growths that can occur on the genitals or around the anus. Genital warts are caused by a different virus than other types of warts and can be passed through sexual contact.
Warts can be removed with over-the-counter treatments, such as salicylic acid, or by freezing them with liquid nitrogen. More stubborn warts may require treatment by a doctor.
Causes of skin lumps
There are many different causes of skin lumps. The most common are:
Age: The older you are, the more likely you are to develop skin lumps. This is because your skin becomes thinner and less elastic as you age, making it more susceptible to injury.
Injury: Skin lumps can be caused by trauma to the skin, such as from a fall or car accident.
Infection: Bacterial or viral infections can cause skin lumps. For example, warts are caused by viruses and cysts can be caused by bacteria.
Inflammation: Skin lumps can be caused by inflammation of the skin, such as from eczema or psoriasis.
Cancer: Some skin lumps, such as moles and skin tags, can become cancerous. You should have any new or changing lumps checked by a doctor.
When to see a doctor?
You should see a doctor if you have a skin lump that:
- Is new and growing rapidly
- Is painful or bleeds easily
- Changes in size, shape, or colour
- Itches or burns
- Does not go away on its own after a few weeks
You should see a doctor as soon as possible if the skin lump is larger than 5 cm, is painful, bleeds, or has changed in appearance. Your doctor will be able to determine whether the skin lump is benign (non-cancerous) or cancerous and recommend the best course of treatment.
What tests will the doctor do?
The doctor will likely perform a physical exam and ask about your medical history. They may also order one or more of the following tests:
Biopsy: This is the only way to definitively diagnose most types of skin lumps. A small piece of tissue is removed and sent to a laboratory for analysis. The results usually take a few days to come back.
Imaging tests: These can help identify certain types of lumps, such as cysts. Imaging tests include ultrasounds, MRI scans, and CT scans.
Blood tests: These may be ordered to check for infection or cancer.
What kind of doctor should I see concerning skin lumps?
If you have a skin lump, you should see a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions of the skin. If you require surgical removal, you will be referred to a plastic surgeon.
What are the risks of surgery to remove skin lumps?
The risks of skin lump removal surgery include infection, bleeding, and scarring. However, these risks are usually minimal when the surgery is performed by a qualified plastic surgeon.
Will insurance cover the cost of surgery to remove a skin lump?
Most insurance plans will cover the cost of surgery to remove a skin lump if it is medically necessary. Your plastic surgeon singapore will be able to tell you whether your insurance plan will cover the cost of surgery.
What is the post-surgery recovery like?
The recovery from this type of surgery is usually quick and relatively painless. You should be able to go home the same day as your surgery and return to your normal activities within a few days. Complications are rare but can include infection, bleeding, and scarring.
How do I know if the skin lump is cancerous?
Most skin lumps are benign (non-cancerous), but some can be cancerous. Your doctor will perform a biopsy, a procedure in which a small sample of tissue is removed from the lump and examined under a microscope to determine if it is cancerous.
What if I choose not to have surgery to remove my skin lump?
If you have a benign (non-cancerous) skin lump that is not causing any symptoms, you may choose not to have it removed. However, if the lump is cancerous or causing pain, bleeding, or other symptoms, you will need to have it removed.