Pain under one’s clavicle in the chest area can have so many causes, and for those worrying that this means esophageal cancer – unfortunately, this IS a possible cause.

Normally, when a person begins feeling pain or aching beneath their clavicle bone, near the chest area, esophageal cancer is not the first suspect that pops into their mind.

But if they have a family history of this disease, or know someone who has it, or were – by sheer chance – recently reading up about this disease, it might be first on their radar.

Can Esophageal Cancer Cause Pain Beneath the Collarbone?

“The chances of that are very small,” 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 20 years.

“It’d be primarily due to upper esophageal cancer, causing pain, swallowing issues or a connection (called fistular) with the wind pipe,” explains Dr. Levandovsky.

“Upper esophageal cancers are significantly outnumbered by lower esophageal ones, so again, this would be quite rare.”

Other Cancers Can Cause Pain Under the Clavicle Near the Chest

It’s only fair to point out that other malignant disease can cause these two symptoms at the same time, and especially cause one or the other.

For both pain under the clavicle and in the chest area, the following causes are possible: cancer of the breast, lung and lymph nodes (lymphoma).

In addition, metastatic cancer can cause pain in those areas. This includes breast, prostate, bone and melanoma.

Non-Malignant Causes

Just because many cancers can lead to these symptoms doesn’t mean that benign causes aren’t more likely – especially if you don’t have additional worrisome symptoms like unexplained weight loss, fatigue or shortness of breath.

A major benign cause is of musculoskeletal origin. You may have overdone it at the gym or helping someone move.

Persistent symptoms, though, probably have a different cause. Coronary artery disease can cause both chest and shoulder-area pain that recurs.

There is also the possibility that the two symptoms have unrelated causes.

For instance, the pain beneath your collarbone could involve a recurring muscle spasm, and the ache in your chest could be from a digestive issue, acid reflux or strained rib cartilage.

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. 


Top image: Shutterstock/fizkes