Painless chest wall lump quiz
Take a quiz to find out what's causing your lump.
A painless lump on the chest can most commonly be caused by a skin condition like an abscess, wart, or cysts. Rare causes for a painless chest wall lump include non cancerous cell growth known as lipoma, dermatofibroma, or breast cancer. Read below for more information on causes and treatment options.
Symptoms of a painless chest wall lump
Even if a chest wall lump is painless, it can still be bothersome and strange. Without pain, it may also be harder to determine if the lump is changing over time, but that doesn't mean you should try to ignore it. A lump can be benign; however, it can also signify a serious underlying condition.
Other possible symptoms of a painless chest wall lump
A chest wall lump may suggest a cancerous process, especially if you also experience:
- Night sweats
- Unintentional weight loss
- Nipple discharge
- Rib pain or difficulty with chest expansion
The lump may also be hard, feel rigid or stuck in place, and grow in size. If you experience such symptoms in addition to your chest wall lump, make an appointment with your physician promptly.
Even if the lump's appearance is unsightly, there are reassuring symptoms. For example, chest wall lumps are less concerning if they have the following characteristics.
- Easily mobile
- Get smaller in size with rest
Causes of a painless chest wall lump
The following details may help you better understand your symptoms. If your chest wall lump becomes painful or otherwise distressing, see a physician promptly.
The chest wall is a cavity of bones, including the spine, sternum, and ribs, and muscle that forms a cage around the lungs, heart, and other vital organs. There is also fat and various tissues that run throughout this area. Any condition that affects these structures can result in a lump that may be painless.
In general, any growth is the result of cells dividing and growing uncontrollably. Sometimes there is a genetic mutation in DNA or a specific protein or failure in an important checkpoint. These abnormal cells accumulate to form a noticeable lump, also called a tumor. Tumors can be divided into the following groups.
- Benign: A tumor that originates in the bone or muscle of the chest wall that doesn't invade nearby tissues or spread is considered benign (harmless). Lipomas (tumors of fatty tissues) are often benign.
- Malignant: A malignant tumor invades not only its surrounding tissues but also has the capacity to spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors can also be categorized as primary or secondary. Sarcomas, tumors that arise in cartilage, soft tissues, or bones, are often malignant. Primary tumors originate in the bone or muscle of the chest wall. Secondary tumors originate elsewhere in the body and metastasize (spread) to the chest wall.
There are many other conditions that can appear as lumps in the chest wall.
- Dermatologic: Many dermatologic conditions can result in lumps and bumps on the skin throughout the body. For example, cysts are growths that can be filled with fluid, pus, blood or other material. They often feel like small peas under the skin that are painless or smooth to the touch.
- Infections: Some bacterial and viral skin infections can result in sequelae that look like growths. For example, some strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) can result in warts or wart-like growths on the skin.
- Lymphatic: The lymphatic system is an import network of organs, vessels, and glands throughout the body important for immune function. The glands of the system, also called lymph nodes, function to filter and trap viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens before they can spread. There are lymph nodes in the chest wall that can swell with inflammatory conditions and may appear as chest wall lumps.
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
Warts, also called common warts or verrucae, are small, rough, rounded growths on the top layer of the skin. They may appear singly or in clusters.
Common warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and are contagious through direct contact, especially through a break in the skin. They may spread from one place on the body to another simply through touch.
Anyone can get warts but they are most common in anyone with a weakened immune system, as from illness or chemotherapy. Children and teenagers are also susceptible to warts.
Warts often first appear on the hands and fingers, especially near the nails or after any injury to the skin. This is why biting fingernails is a risk factor for warts.
Warts are benign, meaning they are not cancerous. But they can be unsightly and interfere with normal use of the hands, so treatment is often beneficial.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination. Warts in children sometimes go away without treatment, but otherwise most warts can be easily removed in a doctor's office.
A cyst is a small sac or lump, filled with fluid, air, fat, or other material, that begins to grow somewhere in the body for no apparent reason. A skin cyst is one that forms just beneath the skin.
It's believed that skin cysts form around trapped keratin cells – the cells that form the relatively tough outer layer of the skin.
These cysts are not contagious.
Anyone can get a skin cyst, but they are most common in those who are over age 18, have acne, or have injured the skin.
Symptoms include the appearance of a small, rounded lump under the skin. Cysts are normally painless unless infected, when they will be reddened and sore and contain pus.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination. A small cyst can be left alone, though if it is unsightly or large enough to interfere with movement it can be removed in a simple procedure done in a doctor's office. An infected cyst must be treated so that the infection does not spread.
Top Symptoms: skin-colored armpit bump, marble sized armpit lump, small armpit lump
Symptoms that always occur with skin cyst: skin-colored armpit bump
Urgency: Wait and watch
Male breast cancer
Although breast cancer is much more common in women, men can get it too. It happens most often to men between the ages of 60 and 70.
Diagnosing male breast cancer requires a physician's clinical exam, a mammogram, and tissue biopsy. It's treatment involves surgically removing the cancer followed by hormone treatments, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy. A doctor's visit is needed in the next few days!
Lipoma is a word that translates as "fatty tumor," but a lipoma is not cancer. It is simply a growth of fat between the muscle layer and the skin above it.
The exact cause is not known. The condition does run in families and is associated with other unusual syndromes such as adiposis dolorosa, which is similar. Lipomas most often appear after age 40.
Symptoms include a soft, easily moveable lump beneath the skin, about two inches across. A lipoma is painless unless its growth is irritating the nerves around it. They are most often found on the back, neck, and abdomen, and sometimes the arms and upper legs.
It is a good idea to have any new or unusual growth checked by a medical provider, just to make certain it is benign.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination, biopsy, and imaging such as ultrasound or CT scan.
Most of the time, treatment is not necessary unless the lipoma is unsightly or is interfering with other structures. It can be removed through surgery or liposuction.
Top Symptoms: skin-colored groin bump, marble sized groin lump, small groin lump
Symptoms that always occur with lipoma: skin-colored groin bump
Urgency: Wait and watch
Hodgkin lymphoma, formerly known as Hodgkin's lymphoma or Hodgkin's disease, is cancer of the lymphatic system. It is believed to be caused by a mutation in one of the body's immune system cells, called a B cell.
Most susceptible are those under age 30 or over age 55, with a family history of the disease, as well as anyone with a history of any illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.
Symptoms include swelling of lymph nodes in groin, armpits, and neck; lowered tolerance to drinking alcohol, including pain in lymph nodes afterwards; unintended weight loss; fever; chills; night sweats; and itching.
There are good treatments available for Hodgkin lymphoma, so it is important to see a medical provider about these symptoms as soon as possible.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination; blood tests; imaging such as x-ray, CT scan, or PET scan; and sometimes lymph node biopsy and/or bone marrow sample.
Treatment involves a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Bone marrow transplant, also called stem cell transplant, can be done in some cases.
A dermatofibroma is a fairly common skin growth that usually appears on the lower legs, but may appear anywhere on the body. These mole-like growths are benign (noncancerous.)
The cause is not known, though a dermatofibroma may appear after a minor injury. The growths are not contagious.
Dermatofibromas are most common in adults and are rarely found in children.
Symptoms include a hard, raised growth that is red, pink, or brown and less than half an inch across. They are usually painless but may be tender or itchy, and may appear alone or in groups.
Any new growth on the skin should be seen by a medical provider, especially if the growth is very dark in color or changes its shape or appearance quickly.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination and sometimes biopsy.
A dermatofibroma does not require treatment unless it is interfering with clothing or is unsightly. They can be surgically removed, though this will leave a scar and the growth may eventually return.
Painless chest wall lump treatments and relief
Since the causes of painless chest wall lumps are varied, it is important to see your physician for a proper diagnosis. Depending on the cause of your symptoms, your physician may suggest the following treatments.
- Cancer treatment: If your symptoms suggest malignant cancer, your physician will discuss treatment options including surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.
- Surgery: Surgery is often an option for benign chest wall lumps, but also can be considered for removing warts or other dermatologic skin problems.
- Supportive care: For most other causes of chest wall lumps, watching and waiting for the lump to resolve is the first step. Many conditions, such as warts and cysts, resolve on their own.
FAQs about painless chest wall lump
Will the lump in my chest wall go away on its own?
Depending on the cause, there is a possibility that the lump will go away on its own. If the chest wall lump is a cyst or caused by lymphatic swelling from a transient infection, the likelihood that it will go away on its own is high. However, if the chest wall lump is a benign or malignant tumor, it will not resolve on its own and will require follow-up.
Will the lump become painful?
The chest wall lump may or may not become painful depending on the cause. Some tumors may become painful over time; and although warts and dermatologic conditions such as cysts are usually painless, there is a possibility that they may become painful over time as well.
Is the chest wall lump chronic or temporary?
A chest wall lump may be temporary or chronic depending on the cause. A chronic chest wall lump is more associated with benign or malignant growths whereas temporary lumps are more associated with other causes such as dermatologic skin conditions.
How will the lump affect my daily activities?
A chest wall lump may affect activities such as inhaling and exhaling deeply because a growth within the muscles of the chest wall can impede movement of the chest wall. If your symptoms are due to a malignant process, you may also feel extremely fatigued and unable to carry out normal daily activities.
What can I do to prevent the development of chest wall lumps?
It is very difficult to prevent the development of chest wall lumps. Some chest wall cancers are genetic or hereditary in nature (meaning that they are passed down from family to family). Other causes such as lymph node swelling or dermatologic skin conditions may be prevented with techniques such as proper hand washing and hygiene practices.
Questions your doctor may ask about painless chest wall lump
- What color is the bump?
- Is the lump on your chest on the surface of the skin or below the skin?
- What is your body mass?
- Have you been experiencing a deep, aching bone pain that started for no apparent reason?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
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- Chest Wall Tumors. University of Rochester Medical Center. URMC Link
- Chest Wall Tumors and Sarcomas. Mount Sinai. Mount Sinai Link
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- Chest Wall Tumor. Boston Medical Center. BMC Link
- Chatha DS, Rybak LD, Wittig JC, Desai P. Chest Wall Mass in a 50-Year-Old Woman. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. 2010;468(5):1462-1466. NCBI Link