What to do if you discover a lump

Dr. Greene discussing what to do when you find a lump

Dr. Greene discussing lymph nodes vs. lumpsFinding a lump on your child’s body is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact most of the time little lumps it’s a good thing: healthy lymph nodes swell when they are attacking foreign invaders.

The question is how to tell if the lump is well-behaving lymph node or something more serious.

With just a couple of quick checks, you can either quickly rule out anything serious, or know that you and you child should follow-up with a doctor.

Watch the video below tell you how to determine which you’re dealing with.

More information on lumps and lymph nodes:

If there is anything you’d like to know about lumps or lymph nodes that I didn’t address in the video, drop me a comment and I’ll try and shed some light on your question.

Dr. Alan Greene

Article written by

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.



  • Emily Hamblin

    Hi Dr Green
    My son has just had his 2nd Birthday this week. He has a lump on his penis – about half way down the shaft and under the skin (it doesn’t move when you move the skin over it). It is quite well deliniated but is soft rather than hard. It has been growing for about 6 months. I have now taken him to 2 doctors. Both have said that it is not something to worry about. the first said it was a sebacious cyst, the second said smegma. (not sure if these are the same). The second said that he needs to have a circumcision as it is there because his foreskin is too tight and I ought to be manipulating it to ease it up. She wants to circumcise him in 6 months. I thought that it was normal for the foreskin to be tight at this age and that it shouldn’t be manipulated that it would ease up on its own? He doesn’t have ballooning or infection surely circumcision should be a last resort?

    • Alan Greene

      Hi Emily,

      A common benign finding in uncircumcised boys is something called smegma or a preputial cyst. It’s just extra old skin cells that collect in a pocket because the foreskin isn’t fully retractible yet. These are usually well-delineated, and sometimes pearly white under the skin. They actually help the separation of the foreskin and the glans of the penis, and are squeezed out on their own once the foreskin becomes easier to retract. Nothing needs to be done for this in the meantime.

      Phimosis is the name of not being able to retract the foreskin. There is both normal phimosis and phimosis that should be treated.

      Normal phimosis is present in almost all newborn boys. The opening is soft and pliant, but doesn’t retract much. While there is usually some movement by age 2, in only about 8% of normal uncircumcised boys does it fully retract by 1st grade. This typically eases up on its own, as you’ve said. There’s no rush at all. Most are fully retractible by 7th grade.

      I’ve written about the care and cleaning of an uncircumcised penis here: http://www.drgreene.com/qa-articles/cleaning-penis-intact-foreskin/

      Circumcision isn’t needed for normal phimosis or for smega/preputial cysts. Gentle, but not forcible, manipulation can be okay.

      With problem phimosis, the opening is usually hard, or scarred, or has a white ring. You may see frequent infections, ballooning, urinary problems, or new tightening after it used to be loose. A pediatrician or pediatric urologist can help to diagnose this.

      Thanks, Emily, for looking into this for your son.

      • Emily Hamblin

        Many Thanks, that has put my mind at ease.

        • Alan Greene

          My pleasure! Great question.

  • Lisa Anne Davies

    My daughter is 2 years and has a lump in her artery in her neck. (I say artery, it is the main blood vessel on her right). It is raised and very noticeable when she shouts or screams. My husband has noticed it also are we are concerned but feel a little silly taking her to the doctor. She had colic as a baby due to lactose interlerance and spent 15 hours a day screaming and I’m not sure whether it has been caused by that. It was fairly noticeable since she was about 3 months old.

  • Dawn Winkelmann

    OMG this video was so informative! I constantly have swollen lymph nodes and my doctor always talks about surgery, but then it goes away. I am so thankful to know it’s just my body working against infections. Since I work with kids 12 hours a day, I fight infections a lot!

    Thanks Dr. Greene!

    Dawn Winkelmann, M.S,CCC-SLP
    Speech Pathologist/Feeding Specialist

    • Alan Greene

      Thank _you_ Dawn. And for your important work!