Chest Wall Cancer

What is chest wall cancer?

Cancer of the chest wall may arise from a primary malignant tumor — which forms in the chest wall area itself — or from a metastatic tumor that grew somewhere else (often in the lung or breast) and then spread to the chest.

More than half of malignant chest wall tumors are metastatic. Primary chest wall tumors are predominantly sarcomas, which form in the bone, soft tissue and skeletal muscle of the chest area.

Tumors in the bone and cartilage of the chest wall are usually painful. If you have a soft-tissue tumor, however, you may not feel any symptoms until the tumor advances and starts to cause pain. Other chest wall cancer symptoms can include:

  • Pressure or soreness in the chest area
  • A visible lump on the chest
  • Difficulty taking a deep breath (chest constriction)

There are no known causes of chest wall cancer other than a possible correlation between this type of cancer and lifestyle choices, like smoking.

Who is at risk?

People of all ages can develop chest wall cancer, but it most commonly affects adults over 40.

Diagnosis and testing for chest wall cancer

The only way to determine if you have chest wall cancer is to undergo certain screenings. Your provider may order:

  • An X-ray (to determine that there is an abnormal mass)
  • A CT scan or MRI (to further understand if tumor is primary or metastatic)
  • A biopsy (to determine whether the tumor is benign or malignant)

Chest wall cancer treatments

Optimal treatment options for you can vary, and your provider will take a variety of factors into consideration. Your age, overall health status and whether your chest wall tumor is primary or metastatic can all determine which treatments would be ideal. These options include:


Surgical Care

General surgeons are doctors who are board certified as specialists in many different types of surgery. At Main Line Health, our general surgeons are an important part of your care team.

Cancer Care

From diagnosis and throughout treatment, Main Line Health cancer specialists (oncologists) provide compassionate care for you and your loved ones through all stages of cancer treatment.

Lung and Thoracic

Main Line Health experts use the latest technology to diagnose and treat all types of conditions affecting the chest, lungs and esophagus.

Hematology and Blood Disorders

Whether you are fighting cancer or managing a blood disorder, the hematologists and oncologists at Main Line Health offer the comprehensive care you need.