Chest tumors can be benign or malignant. Both types of tumors can cause similar symptoms, such as pain or swelling in the chest area.

The chest wall forms the protective casing for the heart, lungs, and other vital organs. Bone, muscle, cartilage, fascia, blood and lymph vessels, fat, and skin comprise the chest wall’s structure.

Chest tumors may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Additionally, a tumor may begin in the chest wall or spread from a different body part.

Chest tumor symptoms will depend on the type of tumor a person has.

This article examines the different types of chest wall tumors and their symptoms.

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Doctors classify chest wall tumors as primary or secondary.

Primary chest wall tumors begin in the muscle, fat, blood vessels, fascia, cartilage, or bone of the chest wall.

Secondary chest wall tumors can develop from breast or lung cancer. They may be a sign that cancer has spread from elsewhere in the body.

They can develop from:

  • the overgrowth of malignant or benign cells
  • infection
  • inflammation


The most common types of malignant chest wall tumors include:

  • Soft tissue sarcomas: These cancers start in soft tissues, such as:
    • fat
    • muscle
    • tendons
    • lymph and blood vessels
    • nerves
  • Chondrosarcomas: These bone cancers occur when cells make too much cartilage.
  • Ewing sarcoma: This type of cancer develops from specific bone or soft tissue cells.

Less commonly, a person may develop:

  • Osteosarcomas: This is the most common type of cancer that begins in bone tissue, with cells producing weakened bone tissue.
  • Rhabdomyosarcomas: This is a common soft tissue cancer in children, which develops in muscle or fibrous tissue.
  • Plasmacytomas: This rare tumor starts in the plasma cells of bony or soft tissue.


The most common types of benign chest wall tumors include:

  • Osteochondromas: These are abnormal growths that develop on the bone surface near the growth plate during childhood or adolescence.
  • Chondromas: These are rare, slow-growing benign cartilage growths that form on or in bones or soft tissue
  • Fibrous dysplasia: This abnormal fibrous tissue is similar to scar tissue and replaces healthy bone tissue, gradually weakening the bone and increasing the risk of fracture and bone malformation.
  • Desmoid tumors: These benign tumors grow from fibroblast cells, which make up the connective tissue in the body. They usually form in the abdomen, shoulder, upper arm, or thigh.

The different types of benign and malignant tumors have different but sometimes overlapping symptoms.

Soft tissue sarcoma

A person may not have obvious symptoms when a soft tissue sarcoma is still small. Symptoms will largely depend on the size, location, and degree of spread.

They may include:

  • swelling under the skin that causes a painless lump that a person cannot move easily and that grows over time
  • painful abdominal swelling with a persistent feeling of fullness and constipation
  • swelling near the lungs, causing coughing or breathlessness


Chondrosarcomas cause bone pain. A person with this type of chest wall tumor may also have a lump or swelling or experience restricted joint movement.

People sometimes mistake this type of tumor for a sports injury or growing pains in a child or adolescent.

Ewing sarcoma

The exact symptoms of Ewing sarcoma depend on the size of the tumor. Some people do not experience any symptoms. Other people may experience bone breaks for no reason because the growing tumor weakens the bone.

Common symptoms include:

  • a lump in the chest that may feel soft and warm
  • pain swelling around the lump
  • fever with no known cause


Osteosarcomas most commonly cause pain around the tumor in the bone. The pain may come and go and get worse at night. Pain also often gets worse with activity.

Additionally, some people experience swelling or fractures if the osteosarcoma weakens the bone.


People with this type of tumor may have a lump or swelling. Other symptoms depend on the location of the tumor in the body. For instance, it can cause abdominal pain or discomfort and constipation if it is in the abdomen.


Symptoms of a plasmacytoma depend on the tumor’s location. For example, a tumor in the spine may cause discomfort, weakness, and tingling.


Symptoms of osteochondroma may include:

  • a painless lump near a joint
  • pain when moving, if the osteochondroma is under a tendon that moves and snaps over the bony tumor
  • numbness or tingling if the osteochondroma puts pressure on a nerve
  • rarely, the loss of pulse or changes in the color of a limb if the tumor presses on a blood vessel


Chondromas do not commonly cause symptoms. However, some people may experience:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • broken bones

This type of tumor does not often spread but can become cancerous in rare cases.

Fibrous dysplasia

Sometimes, doctors only find fibrous dysplasia by chance when looking at a person’s chest X-rays.

However, symptoms may include:

  • a dull ache that gets better with rest and worse with activity
  • fractures
  • early puberty or painful periods
  • pigmented skin spots, known as “café au lait” spots

Desmoid tumor

Desmoid tumors sometimes cause symptoms, but not always. As with fibrous dysplasia, a person may only find out they have this type of tumor when they undergo imaging tests for another condition.

Possible symptoms include:

  • pain
  • swelling around the tumor
  • difficulty sleeping
  • difficulty moving

Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions about chest tumors.

Do chest tumors hurt?

Chest tumors may cause pain in some people and not in others. Symptoms depend on the tumor type, location, and size.

How do you detect a chest tumor?

Some people only find out they have a chest tumor when they undergo imaging tests for another condition. Other people find out because they go to their doctor with symptoms.

Can chest tumors be cured?

A person’s outlook depends on the underlying cause of the tumor. It also depends on the type of tumor. Doctors usually surgically remove benign tumors.

However, treatment for malignant tumors may be more complicated. Treatment depends on the stage of a person’s cancer and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Chest wall tumors can be benign or malignant.

Different types of tumors affect different parts of the chest wall, including muscle, fat, blood vessels, fascia, cartilage, and bone.

Many chest tumor types share common symptoms, such as pain and swelling. A person’s outlook depends on the underlying cause of the tumor.