Chest Wall Tumor

Bones or muscles of the chest wall can give rise to tumors. Approximately 60 percent of chest wall tumors are cancerous or malignant.

Sixty percent of malignant chest wall tumors are primary, that is, arising directly from the chest wall. The remaining 40 percent are metastatic (spread from another cancer, typically thyroid, colon or genitourinary). Sarcomas (connective tissue malignancy) are the most common primary chest wall malignancy. Sternal or breast bone tumors are overwhelmingly malignant. 

Noncancerous or benign chest wall tumors consist of abnormal growth within rib bone or cartilage.  


Most chest wall tumors have no symptoms. A small number have pain or experience fracture without or with only minor trauma.  

Diagnosing Chest Wall Tumors

Chest wall tumors require imaging, commonly X-rays followed by CT scan, to define the extent the cancer. Diagnosis is made by biopsy, either with a large bore needle (with a hole in the center) or surgery. Often diagnostic surgery involves removing the entire tumor, if it’s small. 


Treatment depends upon diagnosis. If the tumor is clearly benign, removal depends upon symptoms. If it’s malignant, surgical removal (which often requires chest wall reconstruction), chemotherapy, radiation therapy or some combination of treatments are recommended. Treatment depends on cell type, cancer stage and involvement of adjacent vital organs.