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Why Is My Armpit Itchy? Is It Cancer?

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Sep 20, 2022

    Why Is My Armpit Itchy? Is It Cancer?

    For some people, experiencing itchy underarms is just because of irritation. Perhaps, it was due to an insect bite or exposure to an irritating substance. For others, it might be due to an underlying skin condition, like eczema. However, did you know that itchy armpits can be a sign of cancer? If you find yourself asking: Why is my armpit itchy, is it cancer?, this article might help. 

    Why Is My Armpit Itchy? Is It A Sign Of Cancer? 

    If you have asked yourself at least once, Why is my armpit itchy?, it may be concerning to know that it can be a sign of cancer. Generally, two types of cancer can cause itchiness: Lymphoma and Inflammatory Breast Cancer. 


    Lymphoma is the cancer of the lymphatic system, the network of nodes throughout the body that is a crucial part of our immune system. 

    There are two primary types of lymphoma: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s. In both cancers, the lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) grow out of control and cause swelling throughout the body. If doctors find the abnormal cell (Reed-Sternberg cell), then it’s Hodgkin’s. If the abnormal cells are absent, then it’s non-Hodgkin’s. 

    Regardless of type, both can cause itchy skin, including the skin in the armpits.

    • 30% of patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma experience itching, the severity of which has a “very negative impact” on their lives. 
    • About 62 to 83% of patients with T-cell lymphoma (a type of non-Hodgkin’s) also experience itchy skin. 

    Itching happens because of cytokines, which irritate the nerve endings of the skin. Cytokines are small proteins that are crucial in the growth of blood and immune system cells. 

    Inflammatory Breast Cancer

    Inflammatory Breast Cancer or IBC is a rare type of breast cancer. It can cause itching in the breast and its surrounding area, including the armpits. 

    Note that IBC usually causes the breast to look inflamed, hence there will most likely be swelling and redness. 

    Why Is My Armpit Itchy – Signs That Warrant Medical Help

    If you’re asking, Why is my armpit itchy?, avoid assuming cancer right away. Remember that there are numerous possible reasons behind an itchy armpit. To name a few, it may be due to strong skin products, allergy, fungal infection, or heat rash. 

    If you’re worried about lymphoma, please note these other signs and symptoms:

    • Swelling of lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groin. Usually, this is painless. 
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Persistent fatigue
    • Fever 
    • Shortness of breath
    • Night sweats 

    For IBC, below are the other signs and symptoms: 

    • Swelling and redness on the breast 
    • Pitting or thickening of the breast skin
    • Inverted nipple 
    • Painful, tender, or itchy breast 
    • Swelling lymph nodes under the arms or near the collarbone

    Are you worried about lymphoma or inflammatory breast cancer? If so, please set an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. 

    If I Don’t Suspect Cancer, Should I Still Consult A Doctor?

    Even if you don’t suspect cancer, there are still instances when you need to seek medical help for your itchy skin. 

    Case in point: If your itchy skin doesn’t go away in a couple of days or worsens despite home remedies, it’s best to consult your doctor. 

    Likewise, if you develop fever or notice an open lesion, redness, swelling, and unpleasant odor, talk to your doctor as well. 

    Key Takeaways

    Why is my armpit itchy? If you find yourself asking this question, remember that there are numerous reasons behind itchy underarms. The most likely culprit is irritation. Perhaps you use a strong detergent for your clothes or soap with harsh chemicals. Insect bites might also cause irritation.
    Still, it’s possible that itchy skin is due to cancer, particularly lymphoma and inflammatory breast cancer. If you suspect cancer, set an appointment with your doctor right away.

    Learn more about Cancer here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    John Paul Abrina, MD

    Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Sep 20, 2022

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