15th June, 2024
Unraveling Chest Wall Tumors: Diagnosis and Treatment

What Are Chest Wall Tumors?

Chest wall tumors are abnormal growths that start in the bones, muscles or other tissues of the chest wall. Most of these tumors are benign or non-cancerous such as lumps arising from skin or fat e.g. Lipomas or Fibromas. Malignant chest wall tumors are rare however they pose a serious health risk and require prompt medical attention.

What are Malignant Chest Wall Tumors?

Malignant chest wall tumors can be primary i.e., arising in the chest wall itself, or secondary i.e., deposits from cancers arising in other organs of the body. The most common chest wall tumors include Sarcomas which arise from connective tissues of chest wall, i.e.,bones (osteosarcoma), cartilage (chondrosarcoma), or muscles (rhabdomyosarcoma or leiomyosarcoma). Lymphomas arise from lymph nodes and lymphatic system of the body to involve the chest wall. These are chemo sensitive tumors.

What are early symptoms and signs of chest wall sarcomas?

Early detection of chest wall tumors can significantly improve treatment outcomes. Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Palpable lump or swelling in chest wall.
  • Pain or tenderness in the chest area.
  • Shortness of breath or pain during breathing, indicating compression of lungs or airways.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to consult an oncologist / surgeon for evaluation. Your oncologist may ask for imaging studies, X-ray or CT/MRI followed by biopsy to determine the exact nature of tumor. If tumor is malignant on biopsy, CT scan of chest/abdomen or PET scan may be done to determine the stage.

Treatment for chest wall tumors depends on age of patient,type of tumor, whether benign or malignant, tumor size and location. Surgery remains the main treatment modality for management of chest wall tumors especially Sarcomas. The aim of surgery is to remove the part of chest wall with tumor. In children and young adults sarcomas are often treated by chemotherapy initially followed by surgery. Chest wall reconstruction involves replacement of parts of ribs or sternal bone & soft tissue by muscle/bone flaps and titanium or prosthetic sheets or platesto achieve good functional and cosmetic outcomes.

Radiation therapy is often used in post operative setting to sterilize surgical margins and decrease chances of local recurrence. Chemotherapy and Targeted therapy used for high grade malignant tumors and metastatic cancers depending on molecular studies and tumor biology.

The Importance of Awareness and Early Detection

There are several advances in cancer treatment specifically for chest wall tumors. Awareness is the first step towards early detection and successful treatment.I encourage anyone experiencing unusual chest wall swelling or symptoms, to seek medical advice promptly.

Dr. Ashish Goel
Department of Surgical Oncology
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