What causes a chest lump?

Chest lumps have many possible causes, including trauma, infections, inflammatory diseases, benign cysts and tumors, and cancers.

Traumatic causes of chest lumps

Minor and severe injuries, as well as internal trauma, can result in a localized swelling or lump on the chest including:

  • Broken bones
  • Hematoma (collection of blood in body tissues)
  • Retained foreign body material
  • Sting or bite injuries

Infectious causes of chest lumps

An infection may produce one or more lumps in the form of a localized abscess or as a diffuse enlargement of lymph nodes in the chest. Infectious causes of lumps include:

  • Abscesses
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Cellulitis (infection of the skin and tissues beneath the skin)
  • Papilloma virus infections (warts)

Tumors that can cause chest lumps

Both benign and malignant tumors can cause lumps including:

  • Breast cancer
  • Breast cyst
  • Fibroma (benign tumor composed of fibrous or connective tissue)
  • Lipoma (benign fatty growth)
  • Lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system)
  • Metastatic spread of cancer originating elsewhere
  • Melanoma (cancer arising in the melanocytes, or pigment-producing cells, in the skin or other parts of the body)
  • Nevi (moles of the skin)
  • Nonmelanoma skin cancers
  • Seborrheic keratosis

Serious or life-threatening causes of chest lumps

In some cases, a chest lump may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated by a health care provider. These include:

  • Abscess with spreading infection
  • Cancers
  • Rib fracture

Questions for diagnosing the cause of a chest lump

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your chest lump including:

  • How long have you had the chest lump?
  • Are you experiencing any other symptoms along with the chest lump?
  • Is the lump getting bigger?
  • Is the lump painful?
  • Do you have lumps elsewhere on your body?

What are the potential complications of a chest lump?

Chest lumps caused by cancer may have life-threatening consequences, depending on the type and stage (extent) of the cancer. Left untreated, chest lumps due to abscesses or serious infections may lead to widespread infection in the body. Following your treatment plan for serious causes of chest lumps can help reduce your risk of complications including:

  • Necrosis of tissue or gangrene
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection
  • Ulceration or infection


  1. Skin rashes and other changes. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/tools/symptom/545.html.
  2. Soft tissue tumors - benign. Cedars-Sinai. http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Health-Conditions/Soft-Tissue-Tumors---Benign.aspx.
  3. Domino FJ (Ed.) Five Minute Clinical Consult. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013.

What is a chest lump?

A chest lump is a protuberance or localized area of swelling on the chest. Other terms used to describe the various types of chest lumps include bump, nodule, contusion, tumor and cyst. Chest lumps can involve the chest wall skin or be situated deeper below. Chest lumps can be caused by any number of conditions, including infections, inflammation, tumors or trauma. Depending on the cause, ... Read more about chest lumpintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with a chest lump?

A chest lump may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Certain conditions that cause chest lumps may also involve other body systems.

Related localized symptoms that may occur along with a chest lump

A chest lump may be accompanied by other localized symptoms including:

  • Pus or discharge Read more about chest lumpsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases

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