Finding a lump in the groin can be frightening, but it is rare for a lump under the skin to indicate cancer. Regardless, any changes in your body should be reported to a medical professional, who can help you determine the best course of action.
Where exactly is the groin?
What are the causes of a groin lump?
The most common cause of a groin lump is swollen lymph nodes. These may be caused by:
- Infection in the legs
- Body-wide infections, often caused by viruses
- Infections spread through sexual contact, such as genital herpes, chlamydia, or gonorrhea
- Hernia (a soft, large bulge in the groin on one or both sides)
- More rarely, cancer, usually lymphoma (cancer of the lymph system)
Additional causes of a groin lump can include:
- Injury to the groin area
- Harmless (benign) cyst
- Lipomas (harmless fatty growths)
What are the different types of lumps?
Lumps can be generally divided into two categories: benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous).
Benign lumps include:
- Cysts, or sac-like pockets of tissue, filled with fluid, air, tissue, or other material that can form anywhere in the body. Cysts can be tiny or very large, and most cysts are benign (not cancerous). There are hundreds of different types of cysts that form for many different reasons, such as infections or blockages in ducts.
- Lipomas, benign growths of fat tissue.
- Swollen lymph nodes, which can accompany some types of infections.
In rare circumstances, a lump under the skin can indicate cancer, usually lymphoma. Cancerous lumps can be irregular in shape and may have a firm or solid feeling. However, since symptoms can vary among people and cancer cannot be diagnosed without a doctor, be sure to get it checked out if it does not go away in a week or two.
When should I go to see a doctor?
Certain attributes can lend to a lump being more concerning than others. Signs that suggest a lump might need to be paid more attention include:
- If it suddenly becomes very hard or feels like a rock under the skin
- If the lump starts bleeding or becomes a wound
- If the lump begins growing rapidly
- If other concerning symptoms, such as fevers, drenching night sweats or weight loss, emerge
Again, make sure to get a lump checked out by a medical professional if it does not go away in a week or two.
If the lump is benign, it may not require any treatment at all. Your doctor may decide to simply monitor it overtime and keep track of any changes.
If the lump is a lipoma, which is usually harmless, treatment generally isn’t necessary. If the lipoma keeps growing and disrupts your normal life, you may want to have it removed.
If the lump is a cyst and has become inflamed or infected, the doctor may drain it or preform a procedure called an intralesional injection. In the case of an intralesional injection, a doctor will inject medicine directly into the lump in order to treat it. It can also be removed from under the skin if necessary.
If the lump is a hernia, ask your doctor first. If the bulge is very soft, your doctor may be able to massage the intestine back into the abdomen. A small, soft hernia that does not cause pain may not need treatment right away. If a hernia is painful or large, you may need surgery to repair the hernia.
If the lump is worrisome, you will be referred for a biopsy to make a diagnosis which cannot be made on physical exams. If it does indicate cancer, doctors will devise an appropriate treatment plan.
About the Medical Reviewer
Ann LaCasce, MD, MMSc, Associate Professor of Medicine, is a lymphoma specialist and is the Director of the Dana-Farber/Mass General Brigham Fellowship in Hematology/Oncology. She serves on the Alliance Lymphoma Committee, the National Cancer Comprehensive Lymphoma Guidelines Panel and the Lymphoma Research Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Committee.