The chest wall creates a protective ‘cage’ to keep internal organs, like the heart and lungs, safe; but, as in other parts of the body, your bones and tissues can develop tumours on your chest wall too.
Many different types of tumours can grow in this area, either stemming from the chest wall itself or spread from other parts of the body. A tumour that stems from the ribs or sternum is considered a primary malignant neoplasm and may or may not be cancerous. Common non-cancerous tumours include chondromas, osteochondromas and fibrous dysplasia of the rib.
Metastasis may occur when cancer cells from the primary chest wall tumour spreads to other areas of the body. These secondary neoplasms share the same type of cancer as the primary malignancy.
The most common cancerous tumours that arise from the chest wall are sarcomas. A sarcoma is a malignant tumour that forms in the bones, soft tissue or cartilage. A large number of malignant wall chest tumours are sarcomas, though their symptoms vary depending on the tumour’s classification and its severity. Some people can experience anything between difficulty breathing, pain to swelling surrounding the sarcoma.
Chest wall tumours have a variety of different symptoms, depending on their severity and classification. Sometimes, they present as mild lumps that are firm to the touch; other times, as masses that cause discomfort, pain, and difficulty breathing. Occasionally, they can change the shape of the chest wall and may only be visible through imaging protocols.
Chest tumour symptoms may include fevers, night sweats, and/or weight loss as it can affect other parts of the body.
Different types of chest wall tumours occur more frequently in men than women. Some of these types tend to be more aggressive, while the types of tumours in the chest of females are more often benign. Either way, there is a risk of a tumour being malignant, so it is important to get checked if you notice a new bump in your chest area.
To check for abnormalities, our team may conduct an X-ray. If an abnormality is found, additional tests such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will be performed to ascertain the tumour’s classification and severity. After these preliminary assessments are completed, a biopsy may be performed to diagnose the tumour to determine if it is benign or malignant.
Treatment of tumours depends on the type found and benign chest wall tumours may be kept under observation. However, some benign chest wall masses may still need surgical resection.
If the tumour is cancerous, treatment options may involve surgery, chemotherapy and possible radiotherapy. Surgical resection will include removing the entire tumour and reconstructing the chest wall with the adjacent muscles and titanium rib plates.
Recovery from chest wall tumour surgery varies as there are many variables that contribute to the body’s healing. The general rule is to expect a short stint in the hospital for observation for a few days following surgery. After a few weeks, patients often resume normal, daily activities at the discretion of the healthcare provider. It usually takes several months for a full recovery.
Chest wall tumours are not always visible. Sometimes they can only be located via an imaging scan, and they often are only found during routine chest X-ray check-ups. Not having a bump does not discount the possibility of tumorous cells. If you regularly experience pain or discomfort in your chest or have difficulty breathing, it is a good idea to get a checkup.
Life expectancy for chest wall cancer differs based upon the type of cancer, cell differentiation, and the stage of cell growth. It has been reported that more than 17 percent of patients with primary chest wall sarcomas may have a 5-year survival rate when it comes to primary chest wall sarcomas — longer if the disease is discovered in early-stage — adding to the importance of regular lung screening examinations.
Desmoid tumours grow on the tissue of the body. Since the chest wall contains soft-tissue, it can develop desmoid tumours. These are relatively rare and do not spread across the body or are benign in nature. However, they can spread locally within a small area making it essential to resect the tumour before it affects surrounding blood vessels, nerves and/or bones.
Like a desmoid tumour, a solitary fibrous tumour stems from the tissue, meaning they can develop almost anywhere in the body. They tend to be benign but can sometimes be malignant, spreading slowly. This makes them hard to notice until they are unusually large. Surgery is necessary to remove a solitary fibrous tumour.
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Neumark Lung and Chest Surgery Centre benefits from the expertise of a multidisciplinary team led by Dr Harish Mithiran, senior consulting thoracic surgeon at Gleneagles Hospital and Mt Alvernia Hospital.
Neumark is a lung and chest specialist centre with access to leading treatment modalities to achieve the best possible outcomes for lung disease and preventative patient screening.
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