- The latest episode of “Dr. Pimple Popper,” the TLC series starring dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee, featured TJ, a man with an unusual bump protruding from his torso.
- Lee suspects that it’s an uncommon, typically benign tumor called a pilomatricoma.
- The hard, bony growths likely account for less than one percent of all benign skin tumors.
- Warning: This post contains graphic images.
The second season of “Dr. Pimple Popper,” the TLC series starring dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee, keeps delivering fascinating skin stories. So far, the show has profiled a teenager with elf-like ear growths, a man whose skin condition almost closed off his nostrils, and a woman with a horn growing on her scalp, to name just a few examples.
The season’s ninth episode, which aired Thursday night, featured yet another eye-catching growth: A rock-hard, slightly pointy bump that stumped Lee upon initial inspection.
Here’s a closer look at the episode.
TJ had a mysterious bump jutting out of his torso
In an interview segment, TJ, 30, explained that he had an unexplained lump growing on his torso, just below one of his underarms. He also used some colorful language to describe it.
“It looks like an alien’s trying to punch through my side,” TJ said in the episode. “It’s kind of disgusting.”
TJ added that the hard bump was still visible through his shirt, prompting some of his coworkers to ask what it was. He’d even undertaken some intense measures to try and disguise the slightly pink, pointy bulge.
“It’s embarrassing,” he said. “I’ve actually taken a large Band-Aid and put it over there as tight as I could, and then I put two shirts on over it so it’s less noticeable. But over time it starts to get irritated from being pushed in for so long [and] it does start to hurt.”
TJ also said that he hadn’t yet seen any doctors about the growth — until his appointment with Lee.
Lee removed the bump using a special stitch
Lee examined TJ’s bump in her office and was initially stumped.
“As soon as I touched TJ’s bump, I’m sure it’s not a lipoma, I’m sure it’s not an epidermoid cyst. I’ve never seen a growth so large and jagged like this on somebody’s side,” she said in the episode. “I’m not really sure exactly what this is.”
Lee’s next step was to remove the growth with a short in-office procedure. She started by making an incision all the way around the bump’s perimeter. Once the cut was made, Lee struggled at first to pull it out of TJ’s skin.
“TJ’s bump is wedged into his skin and it’s really hard to grab, sort of like a bar of soap that might fall in the shower,” she said.
Ultimately, she decided to employ a technique she called a “suspension stitch.” Lee pierced the growth using a hook-shaped needle attached to a long piece of surgical thread. An assistant pulled on the thread, lifting the growth away from the skin and allowing Lee to reach underneath the bump with a pair of surgical scissors, finally detaching it for good.
She suspected it was an uncommon tumor called a pilomatricoma
Once the bump was excised, Lee said she thought it was a type of growth called a pilomatricoma. (Fans of Lee may already be familiar with the term: A pilomatricoma removal saga on her YouTube channel has netted more than 4.7 million views since it was posted in May 2018.)
A pilomatricoma is a hair follicle tumor that’s typically benign, according to DermNetNZ, the educational website of the New Zealand Dermatological Society. They tend to develop more often in children but can affect adults, too.
The growths are also calcified, meaning they feel hard and bony. In the episode, Lee demonstrated the growth’s rock-hard consistency, banging it against a metal tray in the exam room.
“It’s almost like having a rock tucked under your skin,” she said.
They’re fairly uncommon, likely accounting for less than one percent of all benign skin tumors, according to the US National Institutes of Health’s Genetics Home Reference (GRH). Mutations in the CTNNB1 gene— which provides instructions for making a protein involved in normal hair follicle function — are found in almost all cases of pilomatricomas, according to the GRH.
Lee also told TJ the growth probably wasn’t linked to any serious medical issues. Only a small percentage of pilomatricomas are cancerous, according to the GRH, though it’s not yet clear why some of the tumors are benign and others aren’t.
Lee added that she planned to send a sample of the mass to a pathology lab to confirm her suspected diagnosis.
“I sure don’t remember what [the bump] was called, but it was a huge weight off my shoulders knowing that it was nothing serious,” TJ said at the segment’s conclusion.
Get a closer look at TJ’s bump in this video clip Lee posted to Twitter. You can also watch every episode of “Dr. Pimple Popper” on TLC’s website or the TLC Go app (available for Apple and Android).