Different Types of Chest Bumps & What Causes Them

A chest lump or bump is most commonly caused by an allergic reaction which typically look like red bumps on the chest, or a skin condition like a pimple, boil, cyst, or wart. Unusual growths on the chest are nearly non-cancerous, however a painful lump on the chest should be treated by a medical provider. Read below for more causes and treatment options.

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Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 8 Possible Chest Bump Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. Real-Life Stories
  6. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  7. Statistics
  8. Related Articles
  9. References

Bump on the Chest Symptoms

A lump or bump that appears on the chest, either suddenly or over time, is usually not serious. If the bump is unsightly and interferes with clothing, many people will initially have it examined mostly for that reason. With some conditions, however, a chest bump can be a sign of a more concerning illness. Any bump that appears for no reason and persists should be examined. A "chest bump" may also be called a lump, nodule, cyst, or tumor [1].

Common characteristics of a chest bump

It's likely to describe a chest bump by the following.

  • Hard and bony
  • Firm and flexible, like the tip of the nose
  • Soft and doughy
  • Reddened and filled with pus
  • Pain: It may be painful or painless
  • Grows in size: It may grow rapidly or remain the same size.

Who is most often affected?

The following people are more likely to experience a chest bump.

  • Anyone who has suffered any traumatic injury to the chest
  • Anyone with a weakened immune system: This makes you more vulnerable to infections or viruses that cause warts.

Are chest bump symptoms serious?

The severity of your chest bump depends on the cause.

  • Not serious: A small bump that appears because of an infection or a minor trauma will usually resolve on its own.
  • Moderately serious: A larger infection, or a bump that is painful, should be treated by a physician.
  • Serious: A bump that grows larger over time for no apparent reason should be seen by a physician as soon as possible.

What Causes Bumps on Your Chest?

Many conditions can have a chest bump as a symptom. The following details may help you better understand your symptoms. The most common causes involve superficial skin conditions, deeper skin and tissue conditions, and systemic illnesses or tumors [2-4].

Most common causes

The following are the most likely causes behind a chest bump.

  • Contact allergy: If something touches the chest that provokes a reaction, such as a plant, a certain type of soap, or any other substance that you are allergic to, a bump may quickly form on the skin [5].
  • Infections: A boil, or furuncle, is a fungal or bacterial infection of the hair follicles. It may resemble a large pimple and will be red, painful, swollen, and filled with pus [6]. A wart, on the other hand, is a rounded bump that is rough and grainy in appearance. It is usually due to systemic infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus may hibernate before a wart shows, activated by skin irritation and/or a depressed immune system [7].
  • Unusual growths: These are nearly always benign (non-cancerous) and may include things such as skin tags, or small, soft, hanging pieces of black, brown, or red skin. Skin tags look like a flattened mole on a stalk [8]. A firm mole with blood vessels inside it, so it looks bright red, may occur. This is known as a cherry angioma. Typical moles are small, hardened skin growths that may be gray, brown, or red. After a wound heals, a mass of dark, fibrous scar tissue may form as well.

Less common causes

The following are less common causes of chest bumps.

  • Less common infection types: A pus-filled infection of the deeper skin layers is less likely but still possible [9]. A sac-like membrane containing air, fluid, pus, and/or other material can result from infection, a blocked duct, a foreign body, or chronic inflammation [10].
  • Trauma: Any injury may cause scar tissue to form after a fracture or other damage to the rib bones or their cartilage [11]. A painful lump may also form between two ribs, usually after surgery or direct injury to the bone or cartilage. A swollen collection of blood can form under the skin after an injury [12]. The armpit glands can become inflamed and form bumps at the sides of the chest.
  • Aging: Normal aging can cause calcification of rib cartilage and bumps under the skin, with or without an injury [13].

Rare and unusual causes

The following are more rare causes of chest bumps.

  • Benign tumor: A slow-growing, benign, fatty tumor may form between the skin and the underlying muscle. It is painless, colorless, soft, and doughy [14].
  • Malignant or cancerous tumor: Various cancers can manifest with bumps and lumps under the skin of the chest, in both males and females.

8 Possible Chest Bump Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced chest bump. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Lipoma

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.

Rarity: Uncommon

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

Skin cyst

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.

Rarity: Common

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

Skin abscess

A skin abscess is a large pocket of pus that has formed just beneath the skin. It is caused by bacteria getting under the skin, usually through a small cut or scratch, and beginning to multiply. The body fights the invasion with white blood cells, which kill some of the infected tissue but form pus within the cavity that remains.

Symptoms include a large, red, swollen, painful lump of pus anywhere on the body beneath the skin. There may be fever, chills, and body aches from the infection.

If not treated, there is the risk of an abscess enlarging, spreading, and causing serious illness.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

A small abscess may heal on its own, through the body's immune system. But some will need to be drained or lanced in a medical provider's office so that the pus can be cleaned out. Antibiotics are usually prescribed.

Keeping the skin clean, and using only clean clothes and towels, will help to make sure that the abscess does not recur.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: rash with bumps or blisters, red rash, red skin bump larger than 1/2 cm in diameter, pus-filled rash, rash

Symptoms that always occur with skin abscess: rash with bumps or blisters

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Dermatofibroma

A dermatofibroma is a common skin growth that usually appears on the lower legs, but may appear anywhere on the body. These growths are benign (noncancerous). Dermatofibromas are most common in adults and are rarely found in children.

Symptoms include a hard, raised growth that is red, pink, ...

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Chest Bump Symptom Checker

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Male breast cancer

Male breast cancer is rare and accounts for less than one percent of all cancers in the worldwide. The overwhelming majority of male breast cancers are a ductal carcinoma.

Breast cancer is often noticed by healthcare professionals or individuals when a painless breast mass appears,...

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Wart

Warts, also called common warts or verrucae, are small, rough, rounded growths on the top layer of the skin. They may appear alone or in clusters. Common warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and are contagious through direct contact. They may spread from one place on the body to another simply through touch.

...

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Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing form of skin cancer. Skin cancer falls into two major groups: Non-melanoma and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is a type of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: facial skin changes, pink or red facial bump, small facial lump, painless facial bump, growing facial lump

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Pimple

Pimples are also called comedones, spots, blemishes, or "zits." Medically, they are small skin eruptions filled with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria.

Pimples often first start appearing at puberty, when hormones increase the production of oil in the skin and sometimes clog the pores.

Most susceptible are teenagers from about ages 13 to 17.

Symptoms include blocked pores that may appear flat and black on the surface, because the oil darkens when exposed to the air; blocked pores that appear white on the surface because they have closed over with dead skin cells; or swollen, yellow-white, pus-filled blisters surrounded by reddened skin.

Outbreaks of pimples on the skin can interfere with quality of life, making the person self-conscious about their appearance and causing pain and discomfort in the skin. A medical provider can help to manage the condition, sometimes through referral to a dermatologist.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

Treatment involves improving diet; keeping the skin, hair, washcloths, and towels very clean; and using over-the-counter acne remedies.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: pink or red facial bump, small facial lump, painful facial bump, marble sized facial lump

Symptoms that always occur with pimple: pink or red facial bump

Urgency: Self-treatment

How to Treat Lumps on the Chest

When it is an emergency

Seek immediate chest bump treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if a chest bump appears immediately after a traumatic injury. A rib bone may be broken or displaced, creating a bump even without breaking the skin.

When to see a doctor

Schedule an appointment for the following.

  • If you are suspicious: Any chest bump that arises suddenly for no apparent reason, is painful, or seems suspicious should be seen by a physician.
  • You wish to have a bump removed: Any unsightly chest bump that becomes irritated by clothes, equipment that you wear, etc. can be evaluated and treated. These bumps can usually be removed quite easily in your physician's office.

Share your story with others

Once your story is reviewed and approved by our editors, it will live on Buoy as a helpful resource for anyone who may be dealing with something similar.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Chest Bump

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • What color is the bump?
  • Do you feel pain when you touch the bump?
  • Is the lump on your chest on the surface of the skin or below the skin?
  • Is there fluid coming out of the bump?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Please take a quiz to find out what might be causing your chest bump. These questions are also covered.

Chest Bump Quiz

Chest Bump Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced chest bump have also experienced:

  • 14% Rib Pain
  • 4% Shortness Of Breath
  • 3% Fatigue

People who have experienced chest bump were most often matched with:

  • 100% Skin Abscess

People who have experienced chest bump had symptoms persist for:

  • 42% Over a month
  • 24% Less than a week
  • 12% Less than a day

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

Chest Bump Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your chest bump

References

  1. Blahd WH, Romito K, Thompson EG, Husney A, Healthwise Staff. Swollen Glands, Hernias, and Other Lumps Under the Skin. Michigan Medicine: University of Michigan. Published Nov. 20, 2017. Michigan Medicine Link
  2. Cohen RG, Hallsten J, Schwartz T, Reddy R, Lin J. Chest Wall Tumors. The Society of Thoracic Surgeons: The Patient Guide to Heart, Lung, and Esophageal Surgery. Published Aug. 2016. Society of Thoracic Surgeons Link
  3. Park TH, Seo SW, Kim JK, Chang CH. Management of chest keloids. Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery. 2011;6:49. J Cardiothorac Surg Link
  4. Lumps. NHS. Reviewed Dec. 12, 2017. NHS Link
  5. 12 Common Summertime Skin Rashes in Children. American Academy of Pediatrics: Healthy Children.org. Published June 30, 2017. Health Children Link
  6. Freeborn D, Lentnek A, Sather R. MRSA Infection in Children. University of Rochester Medical Center: Health Encyclopedia. URMC Link
  7. Warts. Seattle Children's Hospital Research Foundation. Reviewed Oct. 2, 2018. Seattle Children's Link
  8. Moles, Freckles, Skin Tags, Lentigines & Seborrheic Keratoses. Cleveland Clinic. Reviewed Jan. 9, 2018. Cleveland Clinic Link
  9. Cellulitis. NHS. Reviewed Jan. 17, 2018. NHS Link
  10. Skin Cyst. NHS. Reviewed May 18, 2017. NHS Link
  11. Miller M. Scar Pain. Pain Management. Pain Management Link
  12. Guttentag AR, Salwen JK. Keep Your Eyes on the Ribs: The Spectrum of Normal Variants and Diseases That Involve the Ribs. Radio Graphics. 1999; 19(5):1125-1142. RSNA Link
  13. Lipoma. NHS. Reviewed Aug. 17, 2017. NHS Link
  14. Blahd WH, Thompson EG, Husney A, Romito K, Russo ET, Gabica MJ, Healthwise Staff. Fractured Rib. Michigan Medicine: University of Michigan.Published Nov. 29, 2017. Michigan Medicine Link

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