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Bukol or Cyst: When Should You Seek Medical Help?

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jul 24, 2023

Bukol or Cyst: When Should You Seek Medical Help?

When we feel a lump or bukol in our body, we may immediately panic. This is especially alarming if we do not know what caused it and if we didn’t experience any trauma to that specific part of the body. For instance, if you develop bukol sa leeg, you’d like to know whether it is a cyst, a kulani, or a tumor. Here’s how to tell them apart.

Is it a Kulani?

Let’s say you have a worse-than-normal cold and when you touch your neck or look under your arm, you notice some kind of bukol or lump. Since the lump wasn’t previously there before, you get worried as to why it is there now.

There’s a big chance that what you have is a swollen lymph node, which Filipinos refer to as kulani.

According to doctors, having a swollen lymph node or kulani is not a bad thing. In fact, they say that it’s a good indication that our body is doing its job in fighting off infection.

Common Causes of Kulani

The most common reason why someone develops kulani is that they have an existing infection. Usually, the site of the swollen lymph node gives the clue as to where the infection maybe. As you get better, the swollen lymph node will eventually go away. Within a few weeks, you can expect them to go away completely.

Other infections that can cause swollen lymph nodes are:

  • Cold and flu
  • Skin wounds
  • Strep throat
  • Sinus and ear infections

How to tell if the Bukol is a Kulani?

A kulani often feels “soft and tender,” and may even be a little painful when pressed. You can prod them with your fingers.

Although you have lymph nodes all over your body and you may not feel all of them, the most common locations where you can palpate them are:

  • Behind the ears, just a bit under the jawline
  • On the side of the breast or chest
  • In the middle of the armpit
  • On the back of the neck, hence you feel some “bukol sa leeg”
  • In the groin area or “singit”

When to See a Doctor

In most cases, you do not need to see a doctor for a kulani, but you might need medical attention for the infection that causes it. Still, seek medical help if your swollen lymph nodes are:

  • Bigger than 1 inch in diameter
  • Covered by red and inflamed skin
  • Growing rapidly, fixed, hard to touch, and are very painful
  • Located close to the collarbone or the lower part of your neck – as this might point to cancer
  • Draining; meaning they produce pus or other substances
  • Stays on longer than usual

And finally, seek medical help if along with your kulani, you are also experiencing symptoms like :

  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Night sweats
  • Long-lasting fever

Doctors emphasize that swollen lymph nodes are not fatal. However, they may point to more severe conditions.


Is it a Cyst?

Cysts, by definition, are “capsules” or “sacs” that form in the skin or inside the body. That’s the reason why some cysts manifest as bukol that we can see and feel, while others are not visible.

Doctors explain that cysts are not solid. They are filled with fluids and other semisolid materials.

The Common Causes of Cyst

Interestingly, most cysts occur for no apparent reason. However, some of the known causes are:

  • The presence of a parasite
  • A trauma or injury that “pops” a blood vessel
  • Defects in the cell
  • Fluid buildup due to blockages in ducts

How to Tell if the Bukol is a Cyst

Usually, a cyst feels like a small bukol under the skin and when you press them, they feel smooth and may roll or move a little. While usually benign, they may cause other symptoms depending on where they are located.

People often see or feel cysts in the following areas:

  • Skin. Common locations of skin cysts are at the scalp, the back of the neck, or the upper back. Skin cysts usually look smooth and flesh-colored or whitish-yellow.
  • Wrists. A cyst or bukol in the wrist may grow suddenly and can even weaken a patient’s grip.
  • Knees. When you bend your knee and feel a cyst like a hardboiled egg, you may have what doctors call as Baker’s cyst. Because of knee cysts, your joints may feel swollen or tight.
  • Breasts. Although you may not see a cyst in your breast, you may feel or palpate it when you perform a breast self-exam. A cyst or bukol sa dibdib usually feels tender and may change in size and sensitivity depending on the stage of the menstrual cycle. NOTE: If you feel a lump in your breast, consult your doctor immediately for evaluation.
  • Ovaries. You will not be able to feel a lump or bukol sa obaryo, but you will most likely develop symptoms like irregular menstruation and mild spotting. Furthermore, if the cyst bursts, you may feel a sudden, severe pain in the lower abdomen. If you experience this, seek medical help right away.
  • When to See a Doctor

    According to reports, many kinds of cysts that grow in the wrist and ovary go away on their own. Others, on the other hand, need to be drained or treated, especially if they are causing symptoms.

    The general rule is if you feel unusual swelling or bukol in your body, you must consult a doctor and have them evaluated. Upon evaluation and the doctors see that the mass is solid, you may need further assessment as it could be a tumor. This is because unlike cysts which are fluid-filled, tumors are hard masses, meaning they are firm and solid. Additionally, you cannot easily move tumors as you can with cysts.

    Doctors will be able to tell if the tumor is benign or malignant through a biopsy. The idea is to take a tissue sample from the lump or bukol and test if they are cancerous.

    Key Takeaways

    When we develop lumps or bukol anywhere in our body, it’s normal to be worried. The best course of action is to see a doctor. If it’s just kulani or swollen lymph nodes, then you will receive help for the condition that caused it. Should it be a cyst, then the doctor will tell you whether or not you need further medical treatment.

    Learn more about Skin Health here


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

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jul 24, 2023

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