Pain under the right ribcage has a ton of causes, and 11 are cancer.

A nagging pain under the right ribcage that won’t go away can be a symptom of cancer; do not take a diagnosis of “muscle pull” as the gospel if that tiny voice inside of you isn’t quite agreeing with this.

It is perfectly okay to seek out a second opinion. Gallstones, too, can cause sharp pains in this area — and an ultrasound will pick this up. But an ultrasound and CT scan can also pick up more serious causes.

Cancers that May Cause Pain Under the Right Rib (no particular order)

1. Liver. This isn’t surprising, being that the liver is located in the upper right of the abdomen. Cancer of the liver may be primary (arising from liver cells) or secondary – a spread from another cancer such as colon.

2. Gallbladder. This organ is located right under the liver. A malignancy can be primary or secondary.

3. Lung. It’s no surprise that a lung cancer can cause pain under the right rib, considering the location of the lungs (inside the ribcage).

4. Bone.

5. Hodgkin lymphoma

6. Pancreatic

Metastases to the Ribcage

7. Colon

8. Kidney

9. Prostate

10. Thyroid

11. Breast

Breast Cancer Spread to the Ribcage


“The pain is from expansion or breaking down of the bony structure,” says Mark Levandovsky, MD, Founder and Medical Director of Preventive Medicine and Cancer Care. Dr. Levandovsky is a board certified internist and oncologist/hematologist in practice for over 17 years.

If expansion, the nerve ending may be affected,” continues Dr. Levandovsky. “If breakdown, the integrity of the bone architecture is compromised, often affecting other bones/structure or organs.”

A pain under the right ribcage isn’t always from the rib bone itself, and is most often caused by a musculoskeletal issue or a harmless gas bubble.

In short, many other causes are possible that do not involve cancer.

Dr. Levandovsky provides personalized care to health conscious individuals as well as cancer patients and survivors, focusing on an integration of genetic/molecular risk assessments, prevention, education, nutrition and psycho-oncology.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 
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