How Do Doctors Treat a Lump on the Sternum?

An oncologist may treat cancerous lumps on the sternum with chemotherapy.
The sternum is the bone that connects each side of the rib cage.
The xiphoid process may feel like a hard lump on the sternum.
Article Details
  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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In most cases, it is not necessary to treat a lump on the sternum, as there is a naturally occurring protrusion on the sternum called the xiphoid process. On rare occasions, however, a lump on the sternum may be caused by a cyst, tumor, or hernia. In these cases, treatment will usually depend on the condition and its severity. For instance, some non-cancerous tumors are not large enough to require surgical removal, so they may be observed without any treatment being necessary.

The xiphoid process is the most common cause of a lump on the sternum. It's a combination of bone and cartilage that is located at the bottom of the sternum, usually close to the center of the ribcage. Most people don't notice it initially, so when they find it later for one reasons or another, it can be concerning. Some may have a more pronounced xiphoid process than others, and at first glance it may resemble a large lump beneath the skin.

Occasionally a hernia can also cause a lump on the sternum. This occurs when a small amount of fatty tissue or intestines bulges out of the abdominal cavity through an opening in the bones. Very small hernias may not require treatment, but in many cases surgery will be necessary.


Tumors can also cause a lump on the sternum. In most cases, these lumps are non-cancerous and they can be caused by a variety of issues. Some are cysts, which are masses filled with fluid or tissue. These are usually not a problem unless they grow very large. When this occurs, they may need to surgically removed. Growing cysts will often be tested to determine if they are cancerous.

Very rarely, a lump on the sternum will be caused by cancer. In most cases, cancerous sternum masses originate from elsewhere in the body and spread to the sternum bone. The most common places sternum cancer originates are the breasts and lungs. When cancer is the cause, the tumor is usually surgically removed. Additional treatments may also be necessary, such as chemotherapy or radiation.

Although most lumps will turn out to be normal or not life-threatening, it is still a good idea for any mass to be checked out by a doctor. The doctor will be able to determine if the lump is the xiphoid process, or if it is something else. If another condition is to blame, a further examination will likely to be performed to find the root cause.


Discuss this Article

Post 9

Doctors do not cause cancer. They are not responsible for the cancer that occurs. The idea that every test should be ordered for every complaint is what has caused our health care expenditures to be out of control. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. It is better to grow from those experiences then to try to find someone to blame.

Post 7

I don't know why when you go to the doctor and tell them where you are hurting, they pass it of and say go for this test and that test. They say you have gallstones or gallbladder problems, but after two years and the pain is still there in your sternum, don't you think they might look into why you are hurting when you lift sometime, when you bend over and even when you eat or sometimes when you take a deep breath? If anyone else has this problem, have you got any answers? I'd love to hear them.

Post 6

My husband had a lump on his sternum about ten years ago. He was given ibuprofen by his doctor. Ten years later, it turned out he had terminal cancer from the sternum. It went to his liver then his lungs then the collarbone. The doctor should be held responsible. What do I do?

Post 4

I had open heart surgery three years ago within the same year I had to have the wires removed that were holding my sternum together.

After healing, I noticed a knot at the end of my sternum. It did not cause pain at first, but over the past month it has grown. I have been out of work since mid-May because I am consistently vomiting. The only relief I get is when I lie flat. I have been to the ER and they said all the tests came back okay. The doctors are not checking where I am telling them where it hurts. Does anyone have any idea what it could be or what I should do? Please help.

Post 3

I have a sore lump on my sternum, but right now, my doctor is just keeping it under watch. She has no reason to believe that it might be cancerous.

I have heard that sternum pain can be related to fibromyalgia. I have a friend with this condition, and certain points along her sternum are very tender.

I don't think I have fibromyalgia, because I don't hurt all over like she does. The tenderness is confined to this one lump, which my doctor says is a benign cyst.

Post 2

@OeKc05 – I wouldn't wait for a sternum lump to form. Any sort of chest tenderness just sounds scary.

Post 1

My sternum has been really tender here lately. I don't feel any actual lumps on it, but it is sore to the touch.

Is there anything that can cause sternum soreness? Should I be concerned now, or should I wait until lumps form to point this out to my doctor?

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