Swollen Armpit Causes, Symptoms, Lymph Nodes, Menstruation and Cancer

Do you have swollen armpits? The swollen armpit is a sign that your body is battling an infection or another type of illness. This is the place where some lymph nodes are located such that in case there is something wrong; expect to experience tenderness and pain in the lymph nodes.

Swollen axillary lymph nodes during menstruation

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Swollen lymph nodes can lead to breast pain during menstruation period and it is described to be one of the most common breast-related symptoms women experience.  Breast pain in women is also known as mastalgia in medicalese.

Lymph nodes can swell in response to changes in the breast. Women associate lymph node swellings are those suffering from cancer, however, the lymphatic system gets turned on whenever there is a hormonal change.

There is no research that brings out the major causes of swollen lymph nodes during the menstruation period but it seems if you experience this situation you have cyclical mastalgia. Have you ever been evaluated for fibrocystic breasts? There’s some evidence that fibrocystic breasts might be related to cyclic mastalgia.

Some studies find hormone deficiencies or excesses may play a role, including high levels of prolactin, a hormone associated with breastfeeding. Again, there is no link between breast cancer and cyclical mastalgia which is considered very tenuous.

The lymph nodes of the axilla (armpit), inguinal region (groin), and neck tend to enlarge more frequently than other areas. Localized lymphadenopathy, where the lymph nodes of a single area are affected, may also be accompanied by lymph node swelling elsewhere.

It is recommended to visit your health provider for further physical examination. Here are some of the ways to relieve the pain:

  • Try wearing a more supportive bra at night
  • Relaxation techniques should be adopted
  • Apply anti-inflammatory primrose oil every evening
  • Pain relievers
  • Seek medication

The swollen muscle under the armpit

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The causes of swollen muscle resulting in pain under armpit include:

Pulled muscle

When the pectoralis muscle is pulled or strained due to intense exercise without warming up. A pulled muscle under the right armpit may cause pain, but this is not usually serious.

Waxing pain and shaving underarms

Waxing and shaving the underarm can cause sore armpits and sometimes you might experience swellings. It is advisable to take a painkiller and avoid touching it for a while until the skin heals.

Inflammation of ingrown armpit hair follicles

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Under the armpit, there are more hair follicles that are prone to infection. Inflammation of these hair follicles and surrounding sweat glands can occur when bacteria invade them. This can also occur when the pores are clogged by dead skin cells, bacteria and excess oil.

It can also result to formation of infected cysts and sinus tracts, which can cause pain, itching, pus formation and scarring.

Breast cancer

This could result to swelling and pain but in most occasions breast cancer is painless. It can also come with other symptoms, including thicken tissues or lump in breasts, changes on size and shape of the breasts, dimpling on the skin of the breasts area, skin rashes around the nipples, discharge or blood-tinged discharge from the nipples, changes of the appearance of nipples, etc.

Swollen lymph nodes

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Your lymph nodes can swell up when infection invades your body, which may be caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites. Other conditions that can cause swelling of the lymph nodes leading to pain under right or left armpit include cancer and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.


If this condition remains untreated for long, expect to experience complications like nerve damage or peripheral neuropathy can occur. Pain under right armpit may occur when the armpit nerves are affected, causing sharp pains.

Swollen axillary lymph node in female

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Cyclic breast pain or swelling is dull, heavy pain in the upper outer parts of breasts and sometimes, armpits or arms on one or both sides; it starts after ovulation and resolves with the onset of menstruation.

Secondly, swollen lymph nodes can be due to mastitis. Mastitis, which is a breast inflammation, can be caused by an infection during breastfeeding. Symptoms include red and swollen breasts on one or both sides and enlarged and painful lymph nodes in the armpit on the affected side.

Enlarged axillary lymph nodes symptom checker

Lymph nodes that are swollen due to infections tend to be firm and painful. Enlarged lymph nodes due to cancer are usually firm or hard in consistency, fixed, usually not painful, and maybe stuck to each other. Cysts and abscesses under the skin in the armpit may produce lumps that could be mistaken for enlarged lymph nodes.

The following some of the causes of enlarged axillary lymph nodes:

Localized causes

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  • In cases of injury to the armpit, arm, or hand.
  • Infection in the armpit or of the arm, hand, or breast, which drains into the axillary lymph nodes.
  • Scratch disease, an illness that is caused by the scratch or bite of an infected cat. Cat scratch disease normally resolves on its own without any specific treatment. However, the infection may be more debilitating in persons who are immune-compromised like in HIV/AIDS patients or those on chemotherapy for cancer.
  • Tumor in or near the lymph node.
  • Breast cancer may cause swollen axillary lymph nodes since the lymph vessels of the breast drain into the lymph nodes of the armpit.
  • Melanoma is one of the most dangerous types of skin cancer. It may metastasize (spread) to the nearby lymph nodes.
  • Brucellosis is associated with muscle pain and swollen lymph nodes (including axillary lymph nodes). Brucellosis may present as an acute infection or it may become chronic and can persist for years.
  • Silicone breast implants may trigger a foreign body reaction to the implant itself or due to leakage from the implants. According to Darren M. Smith, MD, these complications of breast augmentation may cause axillary lymph node enlargement as well as breast swelling, tenderness and/or breast pain, so be careful where you do such things.
  • Perfumes, deodorants, and certain cosmetic procedures like hair removal from the armpit may also cause an allergy or inflammation in the area with or without enlargement of the surrounding lymph nodes.

Systemic Causes

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There are systemic causes, which may lead to lymph node enlargement that maybe involve swelling of the axillary lymph nodes before more generalized lymph node involvement becomes apparent. These causes of axillary lymph node enlargement are:

  • Viral infections such as Infectious mononucleosis, Chickenpox, Rubella and HIV/AIDS.
  • A bacterial infection such as Ascending lymphangitis, Tuberculosis, Cat scratch disease, and Lymphadenitis.
  • A fungal infection that can result to Small, painless, red lumps appear following an injury, usually on the hands or arms, and may go on to involve the lymph nodes.
  • Some side effects of vaccination such as Smallpox vaccination, Typhoid vaccination, and MMR vaccination.
  • Malignancy growth such as Melanoma, Leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma e.t.c