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Lump on Sternum: Understanding the Causes of Sternum Bumps

Editorial Team
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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What Would Cause a Lump on the Sternum?

Discovering a lump on your sternum can be unsettling, with concerns often escalating to fears of tumors or serious health issues. However, it's important to note that the xiphoid process, a small bony projection at the lower end of the sternum, is frequently mistaken for an abnormal growth. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the xiphoid process can become more prominent due to factors like weight loss or aging, leading to unnecessary alarm. While hernias or neoplasms account for some cases, they are less common. A study in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that only a small percentage of chest wall tumors were malignant. Understanding the benign nature of most sternum lumps can provide reassurance, but a medical evaluation is always recommended to rule out other conditions and ensure peace of mind.

The sternum is one of the primary bone structures in the chest. This structure runs vertically through the middle of the upper body. Its primary function lays in anchoring and connecting the ribs. The sternum begins with a dip at the base of the throat called the sternal notch. The resulting V-shape may feel like one or two knots. These lumps are normal.

Around roughly the center of the chest, the sternum ends in a bone and cartilage protrusion. The protrusion is known as the xiphoid process or xiphisternum, and different individuals have varying sizes and shapes of the structure. In some individuals, the xiphoid process is more prominent and sticks out away from the chest. This anatomical feature may feel like a hard lump on the sternum, especially if an individual is in a reclining position. Weight loss may also cause the xiphoid process to become more noticeable.

The xiphoid process is the likeliest explanation for many concerns regarding a sternum lump or sternum knot, but on occasion a medical issue may facilitate a lump on the sternum. Hernias are another common cause for body masses. These conditions result when part of an organ pushes against or even through the internal barrier that houses it. In the case of a lump on the sternum, protrusion of the stomach or the intestines may create the sensation. This type of hernia may be soft or hard and have associated pain, and it may be caused by a birth defect or by overexertion of the related bodily area.

In rare cases, a lump on the sternum may result from a tumor. Such masses found in the sternum are often benign or non-cancerous. A cancerous tumor around the sternum usually occurs due to a malignancy’s spread from a neighboring structure like the lungs. Either tumor type may or may not feature chest pain and fever as additional symptoms, depending on the size and precise location of the mass. Sternum tumors are one of the least common types of cancer.

What Is a Lump on the Upper Sternum?

Lumps on the sternum are often brushed off as the xiphoid process, the naturally occurring extension of the sternum at the bottom of the human body. It is true that the xiphoid process does protrude from the bottom of the sternum and is frequently the cause for undue alarm in many patients when they feel a lump there. However, it is essential to note that the xiphoid process is located only on the bottom of the sternum and nowhere else. Lumps on the upper sternum must be attributed to different causes.

What Causes a Lump on the Upper Sternum?

Even though the xiphoid process is ruled out, there are still a significant number of potential causes for lumps on your upper sternum. The reasons range from bruising and swelling to certain kinds of cancers. If you detect a lump on your sternum or anywhere on your body, seek medical evaluation immediately for best results.


A hematoma can occur anywhere on and inside the body. While some hematomas are more damaging than others, read brain bleeds, most can be repaired with simple measures. Hematomas are technically an extensive collection of blood that pools outside blood vessels. The blood pools outside of the blood vessels because the vessels were damaged or burst during an injury. Painful lumps may occur, depending on the injury. Hematomas are generally treated with alternating ice and heat treatments and rest.


A lump may also form due to costochondritis, but will usually disappear after a few weeks to months. Occasionally, costochondritis can reoccur in flare-ups that happen irregularly or result from anxiety or trauma. It causes pain in the upper breastbone areas where the upper ribs meet. The resulting pain and discomfort may not always render a lump, but sometimes does. While the cause of this inflammation is unknown, it is typically resolved with localized pain management and breathing therapy.

Tietze Syndrome

Like costochondritis, Tietze syndrome is an inflammatory disorder that is rare and located where the ribs attach to the breastbone, at your upper sternum. Unlike the occasional flare-ups that costochondritis sufferers experience, those living with Tietze syndrome experience ongoing discomfort due to the rare musculoskeletal disease.

Tietze sufferers may experience pain that spreads from the chest to the limbs. Many reports suggest that Tietze pain is first noticed with the onset of a small lump in the upper sternum. The node has been reported to fade and resurface but is generally not surgically removed. In some cases, with excessive growth, lumps are removed but not often. Treatment typically includes pain management, steroid therapy, and physical therapy.


Bony spurs occur when people have experienced trauma or an impact that may cause a bone to break or fracture. Bone spurs are the results of a bone attempting to repair itself. The end product is a bony growth that protrudes past the bone’s original surface. Bony spurs can occur in many patients who have cracked ribs or sternums and cause a lump on the upper sternum. Treatment includes steroid shots, physical therapy, pain management, and surgical manipulation or removal in extreme cases.


Osteochondroma is cartilage that develops over a bone spur in your body. When exostosis occurs near the cartilage of the sternum, rib cage, and breast bone section of your body, cartilage is apt to grow over the bony spur. Doctors report that other than the xiphoid process in the lower sternum, osteochondroma in the upper sternum resulting from cracked ribs is the second leading cause of chest lumps.


A cyst is a sac that forms under your skin, usually non-cancerous in nature. Cysts are sacs filled with fluid, air, or other materials. A cyst can also feel like a lump on your upper sternum. While some cancers can cause cysts, the cysts themselves are unlikely to be cancerous. Two of the most common indicators of a cyst over a tumor or any other lump are that cysts can move around under the skin and generally are tender to the touch.


A tumor is a mass of extra tissue where it should not be, like a lump on upper sternum areas. Tumors and cysts are frequently mistaken for one another as they both feel like lumps under the skin. Tumors can be readily identified from cysts in that they are fast-growing and firm, rarely able to be moved under the skin. While cysts are rarely ever cancerous, tumors regularly return malignant or cancerous results.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Editorial Team
By Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon988202 — On Feb 09, 2015

Has anyone had chiropractic for this pain? An acquaintance

told me it helped immensely. I just don't want to waste money, especially since chiropractors want you to keep coming back and I can't afford that.

By anon949914 — On May 07, 2014

For years, I have had this pain in the xiphoid process area. I found two hard lumps. When I lost 50 pounds, I really got to hurting with indigestion and heartburn. I had an ultrasound twice, and a CT scan. One doctor said is was musculus-skeletal, while another said it was my ribs. One doctor said it's a hernia. I really don't know, but I wish someone would tell me why it hurts so much.

By anon947134 — On Apr 24, 2014

Indigestion may be a function of gluten. Stop for a month, and see what happens.

By anon346769 — On Aug 31, 2013

A lump on your sternum could be a sign of sapho syndrome. Look it up. The info is there. I have it and it is painful and a very rare autoimmune disease. I need to be seen by a rheumatologist. A regular doctor will be dumbfounded. It is a bone, joint and skin disease. It is more common in Europe and Japan. Good luck and I hope the pain gets better.

By anon340810 — On Jul 06, 2013

This article makes me feel at ease. I just saw my doctor a while ago to have a check up on my sternum because I can feel lump in the center of my chest. I had an excessive weight loss of 20 pounds in two months. I felt it when I reclined to do a breast exam. I will have a chest pa and ultrasound on Monday. Let's hope for the best. I am about to be in the best shape of my whole life. I went from 165 pounds to 138 pounds. That's a thing I don't want to be interrupted by this. This will never break me.

By anon318885 — On Feb 09, 2013

Regarding POST 5: Iry essential oils to help your left side. I've been experiencing the same issues, clear mri's, nerve testing, etc. There are therapeutic type oils sold online that have really helped me. The "Raindrop" treatment (you can buy a kit) really helps, too. Also, I've been juicing lots of dark greens (cabbage, kale, collard greens). My symptoms have really improved!

By anon318092 — On Feb 05, 2013

I had a complete splenectomy, partial reduction to my liver and removal of my floating left side rib after a bad fall. It's now been six months since the op. I've had my regular checkups, but now find that I'm in pain on my whole left side, in acute pain, which results in my whole left side going numb in pain.

I've had to stay in one position for several hours, even now in writing this message, Ii feel a tingling sensation on my left side.

I'm just irritated that I can't find a solution to this even after several MRIs, neurosurgeon visits and CT scans. The doctors are at a loss and I'm close to losing my wits. Can anyone please help?

By anon291502 — On Sep 14, 2012

Why bother? they'll just take your money, make you feel like a hypochondriac, tell you it's musculo-skeletal, do nothing at all to make you feel better and tell you to take some antacids and come back in a couple weeks if it still hurts when you don't eat. Never mind that what you said was it hurts like someone's killing you when you do eat, not when you don't. Losing thirty pounds should have been a clue, though.

By msaint — On Feb 25, 2012

An excellent site for concise and informed answers.

By B707 — On May 25, 2011

There is a condition that happens in the area of the sternum where cartilage holds the bones together.The cartilage becomes irritated. This condition can be quite painful. It is called Tietze's syndrome.

Besides pain, symptoms include, high fever, nausea, difficulty breathing, redness and swelling.

It sometimes gets severe, but usually improves on its own.

By live2shop — On May 22, 2011

It's human nature to imagine the worst. We're all kind of cancer-phobic. When we notice a bump or a lump, we immediately think "cancer?"

Of course, when you discover something unusual with your body, you should go have it checked out.

This article's information tells us that a lump on the sternum is usually nothing to be concerned about. The cartilage is just a part of our bodies. This xiphoid process sticks out more in some people than in others.

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
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