What is a Chest Wall Tumor?

Sometimes tumors arise on the chest wall, which covers the chest cavity. The chest cavity is a cage of bone and muscle that holds the lungs, heart, and other vital organs. Like all tumors, chest wall tumors may be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous), and may originate there or have spread from elsewhere. Only about five percent of chest wall tumors are found to be cancerous. Either type of tumor may interfere with the body's functioning.

Symptoms of a Chest Wall Tumor

Symptoms of cancerous chest wall tumors may include:

  • Pain or soreness in the chest area
  • Swelling
  • Impaired movement
  • A lump or bump protruding from the chest

Benign chest wall tumors may cause:

  • A lump or bump protruding from the chest
  • Pain
  • Muscle atrophy

Causes of a Chest Wall Tumor

Although dietary and lifestyle choices as well as family history are thought to play a role in cancer development, it remains unclear what causes chest wall tumors.

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Treatments & Services

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a medication or combination of medications used to treat cancer. Chemotherapy can be given orally (as a pill) or injected intravenously (IV).

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Microwave Ablation

Microwave ablation is a cancer treatment in which microwave energy is sent through a narrow, microwave antenna that has been placed inside a tumor. The microwave energy creates heat, which destroys the diseased cells and tissue. It is a newer method of treating lung cancer that can target and kill cancerous cells and relieve pain.

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Radiation Therapy

Radiation uses special equipment to deliver high-energy particles, such as x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams or protons, to kill or damage cancer cells. Radiation (also called radiotherapy, irradiation, or x-ray therapy) can be delivered internally through seed implantation or externally using linear accelerators (called external beam radiotherapy, or EBRT).

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Radiofrequency Ablation for Cancer

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a cancer treatment in which radiofrequency energy—derived from electric and magnetic energy—is sent by means of a narrow probe that is placed in the center of a lung tumor. Surgical incisions are not required, and the probes are placed into tumors using CT scan to guide the physician. RFA is a newer method of treating lung cancer, as well as cancers of the liver, kidney, and bone. RFA can target and kill cancerous cells sparing healthy tissues that are close to the cancer. Systemic treatments such as chemotherapy and certain types of radiation are absorbed into both healthy and diseased tissue, whereas RFA is delivered directly into a tumor.

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Tumor Resection

The surgeon removes (resects) some or all of a tumor.

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Diagnostics and Tests

Chest X-ray

Chest x-rays provide an image of the heart, lungs, airways, blood vessels and bones in the spine and chest area. They can be used to look for broken bones, diseases like pneumonia, abnormalities, or cancer.

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Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

CT scans use x-ray equipment and computer processing to produce 2-dimensional images of the body. The patient lies on a table and passes through a machine that looks like a large, squared-off donut.

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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

This test uses a magnetic field, radiofrequency pulses, and a computer to produce detailed images of body structures in multiple places. You may be asked to drink a contrast solution for better imaging, and you will most likely lie on a moving table as pictures are taken.

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Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan

A PET scan is used to detect cellular reactions to sugar. Abnormal cells tend to react and "light up" on the scan, thus helping physicians diagnose a variety of conditions. For the PET scan, a harmless chemical, called a radiotracer, is injected into your blood stream.

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Stress Test

A stress test is used to gain more information about how your heart functions during exercise. Your physician will monitor your heartbeat and blood flow as you walk on a treadmill, and will then be able to diagnose any problems as well as plan treatment.

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Biopsy

Any suspicious mass of tissue or tumor is subject to a biopsy, or removal of cells from the mass. This is the only technique that can confirm the presence of cancer cells.

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Our Team

Thoracic Surgeons

Pulmonologists

Hasmeena Kathuria, MD

Pulmonologist

Pulmonary/Critical Care, Tobacco dependence treatment, sleep medicine, Lung nodule evaluation, smoking cessation

Christine L Campbell-Reardon, MD

Liaison, Pulmonary Thoracic Oncology Program
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston MA

Lung Cancer, Chronic Respiratory Failure, Noninvasive Ventilation

Katrina A Steiling, MD

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston MA

Pulmonary Medicine, Critical Care Medicine, Lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), Lung nodules

Frank M. Shembri, MD

Radiologists

Gustavo A Mercier, MD, PhD

Section Chief, Nuclear Medicine
Clinical Associate Professor of Radiology, Boston University School of Medicine
Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

molecular imaging, oncology imaging, cardiology imaging, neurology imaging, cross sectional imaging

Avneesh Gupta, MD

Fellowship Director, Abdominal Imaging
Radiology IT Officer
Clinical Associate Professor, Boston University School of Medicine
Abdominal Imaging

Diagnostic radiology

Anuradha S Rebello, MBBS

Section Chief, Chest Imaging
Clinical Associate Professor of Radiology, Boston University School of Medicine
Abdominal Imaging

Thoracic radiology, Abdominal imaging, Pulmonary nodules, Lung cancer screening, Lung cancer

Affiliations

Boston University School of Medicine Logo

As the principal teaching affiliate of Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), Boston Medical Center is devoted to training future generations of healthcare professionals.  Learn more about Boston University School of Medicine.