Lump in the sternum: Is it cancer? (alternative causes)

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Many pathologies can be the cause of a ball in the sternum. Some are mild, while others can be more serious. A lump in the breast, either in the breast, near the sternum or elsewhere on the rib cage, is a common symptom of many different pathologies.

It is natural for a person to worry if they find a lump. In general, a cancerous lump in the breast will be hard and angular, while a benign cyst or abscess will be round and smooth. However, people should see a doctor if they find any lump. Without the help of a medical professional, it can be difficult to identify the different types of lumps and their causes.

This article reviews common conditions that cause a lump in the sternum.

Causes and Symptoms of Breast Lumps

Lumps can occur in three main areas

  • In breast tissue
  • On the chest
  • Under the sternum

Several pathologies can be the cause of bumps on the chest. Note, however, that you do not necessarily have to worry as soon as you observe a lump in the sternum:

Breast cancer

Le breast cancer is perhaps the first thing that comes to a person's mind when they discover a lump.

A cancerous lump in the breast tends to be irregular, firm and painless, but is difficult to assess. A person should see a doctor if they experience a change in their normal breast tissue.

However, some breast cancerous lumps can be soft and painful, so regular mammograms are essential.

Other symptoms of breast cancer are:

  • A padding of the skin
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction, which means it turns inward
  • Nipple discharge
  • Breast swelling
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Breast cyst (mammary cyst)

Un breast cyst is a closed fluid-filled sac, common in breast tissue and usually non-cancerous.

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Cysts can be soft or hard to the touch, but are usually large and smooth on the outside. In the breasts, cysts may look like hard bumps due to the surrounding tissue covering them.

If a cyst is benign and not painful, the doctor may not perform a medical procedure to fix it.

However, if it is large and painful, a medical professional may perform fine needle aspiration to remove fluid from the cyst. Once the fluid is removed, the cyst collapses, but it may reappear later.

Breast fibroadenoma

Un fibroadenoma is a non-cancerous lump made up of glandular tissue and connective tissue in the breast.

They are not serious and occur most often in women between the ages of 20 and 39. The lump can be tiny or reach several inches in diameter. They are smooth, bead-like, with round edges.

They are rubbery but not painful, and move under the skin if a person pushes them.

A doctor may perform a biopsy to confirm that the lump is a fibroadenoma and not a tumor.

Causes of lumps in sternum

Several pathologies can cause lumps near the sternum.


A proliferation of fat cells is the origin of this type of dome-shaped lump, which is soft to the touch. A lipoma is not cancerous and occurs in about 1% of people.

They are not painful, but if a person feels discomfort, it may indicate a change in the lipoma, which may suggest cancer. However, this is extremely rare.

Most doctors won't treat a lipoma unless it's in a complicated area, or it's large and uncomfortable.

Hodgkin lymphoma

Le lymphome is a type of cancer of the immune system, while Hodgkin's lymphoma begins in the white blood cells.

The most common initial symptom of this condition is an enlarged lymph node that causes a lump in the neck, armpit, groin, or chest.

It is usually not painful but can be tender. If the swollen glands are inside the chest, the person may have trouble breathing and cough uncontrollably.

Since many factors can cause a swollen lymph nodes, a person should also be alert to other symptoms, such as:

  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • itchy skin
  • Tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss.

Healthcare providers usually treat Hodgkin lymphoma with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

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Causes of balls under the sternum

If a bump appears under the sternum, there are two common causes.

Epigastric hernia

A hernia occurs when an organ pushes through the muscles and tissues that hold it in place, causing a lump to form.

An epigastric hernia occurs just below the sternum. The bulge is usually made up of fatty tissue, but the intestine can also cause projections.

A weakness in the muscles of the abdomen is usually the cause of this condition, and a doctor may recommend surgery to correct the problem.

Xiphoid syndrome

Xiphoid syndrome is the painful swelling of the xiphoid process, the protrusion of cartilage located at the base of the sternum.

Injury or overuse from manual labor can produce a dent, but this condition is rare.

Treatments may involve anti-inflammatory drugs or steroid injections.

Diagnosis and contact with a doctor

Since many different factors can cause a lump in the chest, it is essential to see a doctor for a check-up, especially if the lump does not go away on its own after a few weeks. or if it expands.

A medical professional will likely perform a physical examination of the lump to check its contours, size, and firmness.

He will then ask the person if the area is painful. The doctor may also use medical imaging, such as MRI, a scanner, a radiography, a Breast MRI or a mammogram, to better visualize the size.

Finally, if a healthcare professional needs a more in-depth examination, they can schedule a biopsy. During this procedure, the doctor takes a small sample of the lump to analyze under a microscope or perform additional tests.

Ball at sternum : alternative causes

A ball of sternum, also known as suprasternal notch, is a small round growth that can develop on the sternum.

Although they are generally harmless, they can cause discomfort or pain. In some cases, they can also be a sign of an underlying medical problem.

Ball at sternum caused by stress

When you're stressed, your body goes into "fight or flight" mode, which means your heart rate and blood pressure increase and your muscles tense.

This is part of the natural stress response and is usually not a problem. However, if you are constantly under stress, your body may start producing too much of the stress hormone cortisol.

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This can lead to a condition called a "ball of sternum stress-induced", i.e. the cartilage of your sternum hardens and forms a small ball. This condition is not dangerous, but it can be painful.

However, any unusual growth on the sternum should be evaluated by a doctor to rule out cancer or other serious conditions. The treatment of the balls of sternum usually not necessary unless they cause symptoms.

In the rare cases where the balls of sternum need to be removed, they can usually be removed surgically. However, operative risks and potential complications should be considered before opting for surgery.


If one lump in the chest or breast can immediately cause concern, there are many factors that can cause it. While some can be serious, many are mild and may not require further treatment.

However, a person should constantly monitor the progress of a lump and seek medical attention if there is any concern. People should also see a healthcare professional if they have a painful lump or if it changes in size or shape rapidly.

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