What Are the Symptoms of a Chest Tumor?

Impaired mobility may be a symptom of a chest tumor.
Muscle weakening and pain in the torso are typical symptoms of a chest tumor.
Tumors and masses are most often diagnosed through a chest x-ray.
Chest pain and shortness of breath may be symptoms of a chest tumor.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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There are usually a number of different symptoms associated with chest tumors, but the most common tend to be pain in the torso, visible protrusions and lumps, and difficulty breathing. Muscle weakening and general feelings of listlessness and fatigue may accompany any or all of these. Tumors within the chest space are often difficult to identify, particularly when they’re small, and almost all of these symptoms could just as easily point to something else entirely. Anyone who is worried about the possibility of a tumor or other growth should get a formal medical diagnosis before jumping to any conclusions.

Pain

One of the most common symptoms of a chest tumor is pain. The pain is usually located around the area where the tumor is growing, but it can also be more generalized; people often feel a dull ache around the ribcage, for instance, or they may feel shooting pains when they move one or both arms. Depending on where the tumor is located, it may be compressing nerves or impinging on the space otherwise taken up by an organ or series of blood vessels.

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The chest cavity contains vital organs, particularly the heart and lungs, but there’s also a lot of open space within the cavity. As such, tumors often have the chance to grow relatively unnoticed for quite awhile. Growth is usually very slow, too, and there are rarely any symptoms early on. Pain usually only comes once the growth either gets in the way of something else or begins invading other nearby tissues.

Visible Protrusions

A lump that can be seen or felt is another frequent symptom. This happens when the tumor is up against the outer wall of the chest cavity and is pushing outward against the skin. Protrusions sometimes also happen when interior growths cause other organs to shift around, and those can sometimes stick out or protrude as a consequence. When either of these things is going on the skin often stretches or feels tight, and may also be sensitive or painful to the touch.

Breathing Difficulties

Chest growths may also cause breathing difficulties, especially if they are on or around the lungs. Tumors that are invading the lung tissue space make it more difficult for the lungs to expand completely, which can make it hard for a person to catch his or her breath. Wheezing and persistent coughing often go along with this. Lung problems are most common with larger growths, but even small tumors can have this effect depending on where they’re located and whether or not they’re spreading.

Muscle Atrophy

Muscle atrophy occurs when there is a significant decrease in the amount of muscle, and it can be yet another symptom. Muscle atrophy typically only occurs with certain types of benign tumors, but some malignant — or cancerous — growths can cause this, too, particularly if they’re leaching strength out of the muscle fibers as they grow and take root.

Impaired mobility is another, and related, possibility. This does not happen with all chest tumors, though. It typically occurs in individuals suffering from malignant tumors, particularly those that have spread to the blood or lymphatic systems; in these cases, people may feel periods of paralysis or semi-paralysis as their bodies struggle to adapt and keep up.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Chest tumors are often first diagnosed by accident, usually in the course of evaluating or treating some other condition. They may be first discovered on a chest x-ray being done for a bronchitis diagnosis, for example, or they may appear during a routine heart scan. In the early days of growth, people often don’t feel anything amiss, and usually seem healthy.

Once a mass is discovered, though, it’s important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible. Growths that are cancerous generally need to be eliminated right away to prevent their spread to other parts of the body. The exact treatment or care regimen usually depends on a number of factors, including how large the mass is and whether or not it has already begun to spread. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are all possibilities that care experts will usually explore with the patient.

Many benign growths also need to be removed, though a lot of this depends on where they are, whether they’re causing damage or pain, and how quickly they’re growing. Small tumors that aren’t cancerous and aren’t causing any identifiable problems are sometimes simply left alone and monitored. Any that cause problems are usually removed, though.

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