Large, Small, Painful, Hard, Children’s Lump on Rib Cage: Causes and Treatments

A lump can develop on or under the rib cage. Such a lump could be located in the left side, the center or the left side of the rib cage.

Most of the possible causes of lumps in the rib cage are not fatal. For this reason, the lumps can be left to resolve on their own. All the same, a lump in the rib cage should never be ignored. You find that the adipose tissue, which basically is the most abundant tissue in breasts, extends to the ribcage. This means that a lump in the ribcage could be a sign of cancer of the breasts. Your doctor will be in the best position to confirm a diagnosis and advise on the best treatment option. This article discusses Large, Small, Painful, Hard, or Children’s Lump on Rib Cage: Causes and Treatments.

Painful lump under rib cage centre; xiphoid process

If you happen to notice a painful lump under the rib cage center, you may be dealing with a xiphoid process. A xiphoid process is a small part of the breast bone. It is shaped like a sword. You can feel it by pressing your finger on the center of the rib cage under the sternum.

A lump on the xiphoid process can occur due to injuries or trauma. Acid reflux can also aggravate the symptoms. People with heart disease are in a higher risk of developing xiphoid process lump and pain. Lifting heavy weights and eating heavy meals are other risk factors.

Diagnosis is done through X-rays, MRIs and CT scans. Treatment is done with painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications. If the pain doesn’t improve in about 2 weeks, surgery can be considered.

Lump under left or right rib cage; lipoma

Most people will experience a soft but not tender lump under right rib cage or the left side of their rib cage. This is known as a lipoma.

Lipomas are gradually growing fat nodules or masses that develop under the skin.  Lipoma lumps slightly move when pushed. It feels rubbery or doughy to touch. You can have more than one lipoma lump at once. Also, other smaller lumps can be felt around the larger lipoma lump. Lipomas are possible causes of a lump on the penis shaft or on the labia.

The most common symptoms of a lipoma lump include:

  • Small lumps, larger ones don’t exceed 2.5 inches across
  • Feel rubbery and soft to touch but not tender
  • The lumps move slightly when pressed
  • They occur under the skin, anywhere on the body
  • Rarely are painful, but they can be on occasion

Lipomas tend to run in family lines. They also occur more in individuals over 40 years of age. Since they are not harmful, treatment is usually not needed. However, a lipoma lump can keep rubbing against clothes or bra to cause discomfort. Surgical removal will be considered in such case.

Large lump under rib cage; cancer

A large lump on the breast near the rib cage can be a sign of breast cancer. While the symptoms of breast cancer are not the same in all women, the following ones are likely to occur:

  • A hard lump inside the breast, including near the rib cage or armpit
  • Darkening of the breast skin. It can also feel warm and swell
  • Formation of dimples on the surface of the skin
  • Changes, especially increase in breast size
  • The nipple retracting inwards
  • Itchiness, scaling or rash on the skin, especially the nipple
  • Pain in a localized part of the breast that doesn’t end
  • Nipple discharge with no apparent cause
  • Swollen lymph nodes, which are characterized by a painful lump behind the ear, in throat, armpit and groin area.

Not always will a breast lump near the rib cage be a sign of cancer. In fact, chances are high that it is a benign tumor or a reaction to an injury. See your doctor if the symptoms are to persist or worsen.

Other possible causes of lump on or under rib cage


These are nodules that form on the connective tissue. They occur after injuries, cysts rupture, irritation or infection. A lump on top of the head can for example be a fibroma. Fibromas do not require treatment but can be surgically removed if need be. A lump on top of the wrist due to fibroma can also form on the connective tissues of the hand. Like lipomas, fibroma lumps can occur anywhere in the body and do not require treatment.

Injuries and trauma

A small lump under or on the rib cage can result from an injury, bone fracture or trauma. Such can happen when weight lifting, due to chronic cough, due to allergic reactions and such.


Costochondritis describes inflammation that occurs in the cartilage of the ribcage. Cartilage is a tough tissue that occurs between bones at joints. It serves the role of a lubricant and a shock absorber.



A painful lump on rib cage can result from pleurisy. Pleurisy is inflammation of the lung linings and the chest wall. Inflammation can occur due to infection or other causes.


An abscess is an infection on the skin. If occurring under the skin of the ribcage, it could be an abscess on internal organs. This is not common but possible. Cases such as a painful lump on the labia due to abscess are more common however.

Painful lump on child rib cage

You may happen to notice a painful lump on your child’s rib cage. In most cases, it will be due to a swollen xiphoid process.

In children, the xiphoid process is made up of cartilage. The cartilage develops into a bone in later stages of development.

Pain and a lump on the xiphoid process will in most cases resolve on its own. You can try measures such as not serving heavy meals to your child. Also, avoid activities that will require your child to strain or lift heavy weights.

Extreme pain and swelling due to xiphoid process can be addressed through surgery.

Painful lump below rib cage left side

If a painful lump occurs below the rib cage, it is most likely originating from an organ or tissue in the upper quadrant of the abdomen.

A painful lump below the rib cage on the left side can, for example, be due to an enlarged spleen. An enlarged spleen is commonly caused by malaria, sickle cell anemia, leukemia and cancer of the lymphatic system.

The lump can also occur due to an abscess on the pancreas. It the lump feels hard and immovable, it could be due to cancer of the pancreas or stomach. If the lump is accompanied by symptoms of a lump in groin area in a male or testicular lumps, there are more reasons to associate it with malignancy.

Lump below rib cage right side

A painful lump occurring on the lower rib cage can be due to an enlarged liver. Common causes of enlarged liver include infections, heart disease, alcohol and some diseases of the liver.

The lump could also be arising from the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small organ located just by the liver. It stores bile to be used in digestion. Sometimes, the gallbladder gets inflamed and leads to formation of a painful lump. Cancer of the bile duct can also be the cause.

Diagnosis and treatment for lump on or under rib cage


Physical examination can be enough to diagnose some causes of lumps in the rib cage such as lipoma. Other diagnostic tools include:

  • MRI – use of computers, magnetic fields and radio frequencies to map an organ inside the body
  • X-rays – use of high-energy rays to produce scans of dense masses in the body. X-rays are commonly used to check for bone fractures. They can also be used to check if cancer tumors have spread in the body.
  • CT scans – use of X-rays and computers to produce cross-sectional images of internal body organs
  • Ultrasound – use of sound waves to produce scans of body organs
  • Biopsies – involve cutting a small piece of skin and checking for infections or cancer cells


Treatment depends on what is causing the lump and how large the lump is.

A xiphoid process lump can be left to resolve on its own. If that doesn’t happen, it can be removed surgically. The swelling can be reduced with anti-inflammatory medications. At home, you can try hot and cold compressing on the lump. Additionally, avoid heavy meals or foods that encourage acid-reflux.

Lipoma lumps require no treatment. They will resolve on their own with time. If causing discomfort, your doctor can have them removed through an incision surgery.

Cancer lumps are very hard to treat. This is mostly because they keep spreading to other parts of the body. Chances of recovery are higher if the tumors are discovered on time. For this reason, always make a point of having a lump with no apparent cause checked by your doctor.

Lumps occurring below the rib cage will be treated depending on where they occur and what is causing them. Large ones can be removed through surgery. Body scans and imaging will be used to reveal the location of such a lump.