Genital Bumps & Lumps:
When to Seek Medical Attention
At some point, you may develop a bump or a lump in the genital area. These bumps can be nothing, or their appearance could signal a more serious condition.
If you are concerned, talk to your doctor. If you're a girl, you can ask your gynecologist. There are several bumps and lumps that should not be ignored in the genital area.
The two types of lumps and bumps that you should not ignore are skin cancer and infections. Both can have serious consequences if you ignore them. There are also bumps in the genital area that are harmless and don't need treatment.
Skin cancer is extremely rare in teens in the genital area, but not impossible. If you find a black spot that continues to enlarge, it could be Melanoma. This type of skin cancer can be deadly if you don't get it treated. It can be completely flat and can develop in non-sun-exposed skin.
Visit the American Academy of Dermatology Web page on Malignant Melanomas for more information.
Non-melanoma skin cancer usually looks like a non-healing skin-colored or reddish bump that often bleeds easily and does not go away.
There are six important signs that can help you figure out if you should ask your doctor about a spot that you think might be a Melanoma; just think A through E:
A – Asymmetry: A spot that is not the same on both sides is asymmetrical.
B – Borders: When the outline of your spot is wavy, rigid, or uneven, you should ask your doctor about it.
C – Color: If your spot is a different color or changes color overtime, make a note and have your doctor take a look.
D – Diameter: Melanomas are usually larger than the diameter of the eraser on your pencil (more than ¼ inch or 5 mm).
E – Elevation or Evolution: If the spot that you are worried about is raised above your skin (a bump) or if you notice it changing over time (evolving), it might be more than just a dot.
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Infections that can have serious consequences if not treated are genital warts, syphilis, and possibly herpes.
Genital warts are (usually multiple) small, skin-colored bumps. They may eventually go away, stay the same, or become more numerous. They are contagious and caused by genital human papilloma virus (HPV), and have been linked to cervical cancer in women.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Fortunately, there is now a HPV vaccine available, currently recommended for all girls, and probably for boys in the future. It is a good idea to get the HPV vaccine as early as possible and before you are sexually active, but it is never too late.
If you think you have genital warts, you should see an ob-gyn (if female) and a dermatologist (if male). Visit the Centers for Disease Control Web page on HPV for more information.
Syphilis looks like a sore and can appear in the genital area or on the lips and mouth. It is a bacteria, so it can be treated with antibiotics.
It appears as a sore and will eventually go away within a few weeks. However, this doesn't mean the infection is cured. It is still there and it needs to be treated. You can develop serious problems if it is left untreated.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control Web page on Syphilis for more information.
Herpes appears as painful blisters in the genital area. Although the herpes infection itself is not particularly dangerous, the biggest problem is that it tends to come back in the same area multiple times. Some people have outbreaks as frequently as once a month. It is contagious and can also be a problem during pregnancy. See a doctor for medication to prevent or treat outbreaks.
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You can also get bumps in the genital area that are harmless. These include cysts, angiomas, and mollusca.
Cysts are yellowish round lumps under the skin, which feel like a small ball or pebble that can easily be moved around. These may enlarge slightly, but in general stay about the same and do not cause any problems. They are caused usually by blocked hair follicles. No treatment is needed.
Angiomas are small collections of blood vessels and are either bright red or slightly purplish. These do not usually enlarge or bleed. No treatment is needed.
Mollusca are viral in origin and in the genital area are usually sexually-transmitted. Visit the American Academy of Dermatology Web page on Mollusca for more information.
They are usually (multiple) skin colored, tiny (one to two millimeters in size). They will go away with time, but this may take up to three years.
Although they don't cause any disease or increase your chance of cancer, they do represent a sexually-transmitted disease and are usually a sign of unprotected sexual intercourse. Therefore, if you develop these, you should see your doctor and get tested for the possibility of other sexually-transmitted diseases, such as HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and hepatitis.
With the exception of syphilis, these other diseases do not cause you to develop any bumps in the genital area. The people who are most likely to develop sexually transmitted infections are those who have sex at an early age, have a greater number of sexual partners, and do not use a condom.
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Renata Mullen, M D.
Marlana Jean Shile
Reviewed By: Nancy Brown, Ph.D.
Last Reviewed: October 2013