November 01, 2019

Is My Shoulder Pain a Sign of Lung Cancer?

Shoulder pain can be caused by a variety of medical conditions such as an injury. However, there can be a connection between unexplained shoulder pain and lung cancer. In some patients, one of the early signs of lung cancer is shoulder pain. This blog post explains the lung cancer and shoulder pain connection.

What Causes Lung Cancer Shoulder Pain?

Lung cancer shoulder pain can have a number of causes. One reason it occurs is due to what’s known as referred pain. This is a type of pain that has its source in one area of the body but is felt in another.

Sometimes the shoulder pain associated with lung cancer is caused by a relatively rare form of cancer called pancoast tumors. These tumors form in an area at the top of the lungs called the superior sulcus. Given how close this area is to the shoulder, it can cause intense pain there. If you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer, your doctor can tell you more about shoulder pain and lung cancer.

What Does Lung Cancer Shoulder Pain Feel Like?

People who have shoulder pain from an unknown cause may ask, “What does lung cancer shoulder pain feel like?”. The answer is that it differs by person and may manifest in many ways, depending on the location and type of cancer. For example, if the disease is in the left lung, the patient will have left shoulder; if it’s on the right, they’ll have right shoulder pain.

For people with a type of cancer called mesothelioma, the shoulder pain associated with lung cancer can be mild, averaging a rating of four on a scale of 1-10. With other types of cancer, the pain may be severe. Also, in some cases, a person’s lung cancer shoulder pain description may include the fact that it radiates down their arm and can include tingling and numbness.

How Does Lung Cancer Shoulder Pain Differ from Other Causes of Shoulder Pain?

Lung cancer shoulder pain can be difficult to distinguish from shoulder pain from other causes. For example, the pain from shoulder arthritis is very similar. However, if your pain has certain characteristics, it may be more likely that it’s related to lung cancer. These characteristics include pain that isn’t associated with any loss of motion, pain that occurs at rest, and pain that’s worse at night.

If it occurs with other early signs of lung cancer, shoulder pain may be more concerning. Those signs include shortness of breath, wheezing, a cough that won’t go away, and coughing up blood. Unexplained weight loss and fatigue are also symptoms.

If you have questions or concerns about shoulder pain and lung cancer, it’s important to talk with a doctor. You can find a Baptist Health provider using our online search tool.

Learn More About Lung Cancer from Baptist Health

Take a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) questionnaire to estimate your personal health risk and identify your risk factors for lung cancer.

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