Looking down and seeing a lump on your calf can be a scary feeling. But before you panic, let’s explore the possibilities.
First and foremost, you need to determine if it’s actually a lump you’re looking at. Many people confuse “lumps” and “bumps”, which are completely different.
A bump is generally moveable whereas a lump is generally non-moveable. Also, the word “bump” tends to describe a mass on the outside of the skin, whereas a “lump” tends to describe a mass underneath the skin.
Before moving forward, figure out whether you have a lump or a bump. If you can’t for sure which one it is, that’s okay.
This article will help you do it. Let’s look at some conditions that can cause a bump or lump to appear on your calf.
A cyst is defined as a closed pocket of fluid that’s noncancerous. This fluid can be pus or other material. They can appear anywhere on the body, including your calf.
They can form because of an infection or because a sebaceous gland has become clogged. Cysts are usually painless, slow-growing, and smooth to the touch.
For the most part, they can be left alone without worry. They can, however, cause issues if they rupture since it can lead to an infection.
Sometimes a lump on calf should be drained with a scalpel if the doctor believes it to be troublesome. Other doctors might give you a cortisone injection to see if the cyst shrinks.
Overall, skin cysts are relatively harmless but unfortunately don’t go away on their own. Most people opt to remove them simply for aesthetic purposes.
This is another example of a harmless skin mass. Dermatofibromas are red-brownish skin growths that typically appear on the legs and arms.
Doctors and scientists don’t understand where they come from. Still, there’s no need to treat them in most cases.
If you insist on removing it, a doctor can do it via surgery or by freezing it off with liquid nitrogen.
Another possibility for your lump on calf is an epidermoid cyst. Commonly referred to as “Sebaceous Cysts”, they are noncancerous masses. They form via the outpouching of a hair follicle.
They are commonly found on the back, chest, and genitals, but they can also appear on the calf (or any other part of the body for that matter).
As you can see from the picture, they have a found appearance. If they become infected, they will become tender and red, and release white discharge.
To treat an epidermoid cyst, a doctor will go in and remove the entire sac of the cyst. By removing the entire sac, it prevents the cyst from returning.
If you only drain it, then the sac will eventually fill up again. Don’t worry- it’s a minimally invasive procedure that takes a few minutes.
If your lump on calf becomes infected, then your doctor will prescribe you antibiotics.
A keratoacanthoma occurs whenever there’s an abnormal growth of cells within a hair follicle.
This growth can be triggered by a variety of things including sun exposure and trauma.
However, the UV light from prolonged sun exposure is the biggest risk factor for developing this skin mass.
As you can see from the picture, it looks like a crusted mass that’s round and relatively thick. They are most common on people over the age of 60.
Keep in mind that they’re considered low-grade cancer, so you’ll want to speak with a doctor if you have it. If your lump on calf has grown to 3 inches (or more)- which isn’t rare for
Another very common cause of this symptom is lipomas. A lipoma is a soft tissue tumor that lies in the subcutaneous tissue of the skin.
They are generally harmless and have the consistency of a soft rubber ball. Most lipomas are slow growing and like to form on the neck, shoulders, and trunk.
The calf is another potential place where you can find them growing. What are the symptoms of a lipoma?
Generally, there aren’t any except for a lone mass underneath the skin. Many lipomas are under 5 centimeters in length.
In rare cases, they can cause pain by compressing against nerves. People usually remove them for cosmetic purposes.
If you have a lump on calf that’s due to a lipoma, then it’s probably no big deal.
Still, you should talk with your doctor about it. To remove it, a doctor will make a small incision that should result in minimal scarring.
A neurofibroma is a fleshy mass that grows underneath the skin. In some cases, they might even grow deep within the body. For the most part, they are harmless.
However, there are rare cases in which they can become malignant. Similar to many of the growths mentioned above, they are slow growing and usually painless.
They might occasionally cause pain if they’re in a troublesome spot.
If a lump on calf caused by a neurofibroma is compressing against a major nerve, then your doctor may opt to remove it surgically. Once removed, they will not recur in the same spot.
What Does a Tumor Feel Like?
The scary thing about tumors is that they can feel similar to many of the growths above.
A tumor will usually feel smooth the touch and roll underneath the skin when pressure is applied to them.
If your doctor thinks that a skin mass might be cancerous, then they’ll order a biopsy, which is basically when they remove a sample of the mass to look at it underneath a microscope.
A biopsy doesn’t hurt since it’s done under local anesthesia (but the area might feel sore afterward).
Your doctor will then contact if you if it does, in fact, turn out to be cancer. Above all, try to relax. The odds are in your favor that a lump on calf is not cancerous.
How Do Biopsies Work?
A biopsy can be done at the doctor’s office during the same visit that your doctor discovers it.
In some cases, it might be postponed to a later date. This usually only happens if it’s an invasive biopsy.
After the biopsy is over, the sample will be sent to a pathologist who will analyze it and check for cancerous cells.
They’ll take note of the cell’s shapes, internal activity, and type. From here, they can diagnose what it is and send it back to your doctor.
Lump on Calf – In Summary
As you can see, many of the causes for your symptom are benign and harmless.
With that being said, you should still consult a doctor for any skin masses that haven’t gone away after two weeks. It’s impossible to accurately diagnose yourself online.
The only way to know for sure whether a skin mass is cancerous or not is to get it biopsied, which can only be done after visiting a dermatologist.