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Chest Wall Tumors

The chest wall is a bone-and-soft-tissue framework that plays an important role in protecting vital organs such as the heart and lungs. Several types of tumors can develop in this sensitive area. Primary tumors, which originate in the bone or muscle of the chest wall, can be benign or malignant. Secondary tumors, which spread to the chest wall from another part of the body, are almost always cancerous.

Why Do Chest Wall Tumors Develop?

The causes of chest wall tumors are unclear. Many experts believe that certain hereditary, dietary and lifestyle factors may play a role in their development.

What Are the Signs of a Chest Wall Tumor?

Some chest wall tumors are asymptomatic; approximately 20% are detected in chest X-rays performed for an unrelated reason. When symptoms occur, they can include:

  • Chest pain or swelling
  • A visible or palpable mass in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Impaired chest expansion or movement
  • Muscle atrophy

How Are Chest Wall Tumors Diagnosed?

Typically, the diagnostic process for a chest wall tumor begins with a physical examination followed by an imaging test, such as a chest X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. If a suspicious mass is detected, a physician will usually order a biopsy to obtain a tissue sample for further analysis in a lab. To accomplish this, the physician may perform an aspiration biopsy, which involves inserting a fine needle into the tumor and drawing out a small sample of cells. If the tumor cannot be accessed with a needle, an open biopsy may be performed instead.

How Are Chest Wall Tumors Treated?

For most early-stage chest wall tumors, surgical removal is the mainstay of treatment, although the optimal approach can vary depending on the type, stage and location of the tumor. Some patients also receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy in addition to—or instead of—surgery.

The pulmonary and lung cancer specialists at Tampa General Hospital offer the latest treatment options for chest wall tumors, and we develop an individualized plan to meet the unique needs of each patient. When performing thoracic surgery, our experienced surgeons use leading-edge techniques designed to remove as much of a tumor as possible while protecting the surrounding structures. Our goal is to help each patient achieve the best possible outcome and quality of life.