What causes a lump on the collarbone?
Lumps on or near the collarbone in this area have many causes, with some requiring medical attention.
In this article, we look at what causes a lump on the collarbone, as well as treatment options and when to see a doctor.
Causes and symptoms
In this article, we look at the various reasons why a person might have a lump on their collarbone, and the other symptoms that might arise from each cause.
What causes a lump on the collarbone? If not a fracture, it could be due to an infection, a cyst or tumor, or an enlarged lymph node.
A collarbone injury, such as a fracture or break, can sometimes cause a lump to form. The injury can range in severity from a simple fracture to a complex break that separates the bone into several pieces.
Other symptoms of a collarbone injury include:
- shoulder sagging
- limited range of movement
- grinding, bruising, swelling, and pain
Injuries that lead to a collarbone injury or break include falls, car accidents, or an injury during childbirth.
Doctors can diagnose these types of injuries using imaging tests, such as X-rays and computerized tomography (CT) scans.
An infection of the bone, also called osteomyelitis, may occur following an injury, surgical procedure, or placement of an intravenous (IV) line near the collarbone.
Although it is rare, osteomyelitis of the collarbone can become a long-term or chronic problem for some people if left untreated.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include:
- redness, fever, and chills
- fluid drainage from the lump
Young children with osteomyelitis may also seem irritable or chronically tired.
Enlarged lymph nodes
Swollen lymph glands can be felt around the neck during an infection, but sometimes they occur near the collarbone.
The body has hundreds of lymph nodes that produce lymph fluid. This fluid contains infection-fighting white blood cells.
Most people have experienced swollen lymph nodes on the sides of their neck during a bout with the cold or flu, but swollen lymph nodes may also occur near the collarbone.
In most situations, the underlying cause of swollen lymph nodes is a virus or bacteria. However, a doctor may wish to take a sample of the lymph fluid if they suspect a more serious condition to be the cause, such as cancer.
Symptoms that may occur alongside enlarged lymph nodes include:
- swelling and tenderness
- signs of an infection or fever
- night sweats
- hard lump
Cysts and tumors
In rare cases, cancerous and non-cancerous tumors can form on or near the collarbone. These lumps need to be seen by a doctor.
An aneurysmal bone cyst of the clavicle is one rare type of tumor that can form, usually in people under the age of 20.
Some people may develop a non-cancerous, soft tumor called a lipoma near the collarbone. These lumps generally do not cause any problems, but may need to be removed if they are affecting a person's everyday life.
Treatments for a collarbone lump
The treatment of a collarbone lump will depend on what is causing the lump. Treatments for common causes include:
Collar bone fracture or injury
Sometimes, a severe collarbone fracture will need surgery.
Nonsurgical treatment of a collarbone injury may include:
- arm support
- pain management
- physical therapy
If a person has a severe break or fracture, surgery may be necessary. A surgeon can use metal pins, screws, and plates to realign the bone and help it heal in the right place.
Treatment of osteomyelitis will vary depending on the severity of the infection and symptoms. In addition to prescribing strong antibiotics, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove a portion of the bone.
Enlarged lymph nodes
A doctor will try to diagnose the cause of enlarged lymph nodes and treat any underlying infection. In many cases, enlarged lymph nodes will go away on their own with rest and fluids. If the infection is caused by bacteria, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Cysts and tumors
People can often manage cysts with observation, fluid drainage, or surgical removal. Tumors may need to be surgically removed, depending on whether they are cancerous or not.
The overall outlook of a lump on the collarbone will depend on the underlying cause.
Lumps found on the collarbone can be caused by a variety of things, including injury, infection, and cysts.
Symptoms, treatment, and outlook vary based on the cause and severity of the lump. Anyone with a lump on their collarbone without a clear cause should speak with a doctor to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.