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)
- 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:
- 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)
- 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
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
- 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
Skin rashes and other changes. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/tools/symptom/545.html. Accessed May 21, 2011.
Soft tissue tumors - benign. Cedars-Sinai. http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Health-Conditions/Soft-Tissue-Tumors---Benign.aspx. Accessed May 21, 2011.
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 be caused by any number of conditions, including infections, inflammation, tumors or trauma. Depending on the cause, chest lumps may be single or multiple, soft or firm, painful or painless.... Read more about chest lump introduction