Lung cancer and shoulder pain: What is the link?
Most of the pain in the shoulder is usually due to inflammation or muscle trauma. Much less frequent is the shoulder pain as a symptom of lung cancer. However, it is worth specifying that although the shoulder pain is a sign not only of distinguishing lung cancer, any persistent and unexplained pain should be brought to the attention of a doctor or an expert.
When the shoulder pain is a symptom of cancer? And what symptoms is accompanied? Here is an account that should remove all doubt.
How lung cancer because the shoulder pain?
The lung cancer can cause referred pain to the upper back, which starts in one area of the body but is felt in another.
Some types of lung cancer are more prone to cause referred pain than others.
The mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer usually caused by a long exposure to asbestos. The symptoms are very similar to other forms of lung cancer, but in 2015 a study found that 14% of people suffering from mesothelioma feel a pain in shoulder. In these patients, the pain was often the first symptom of mesothelioma.
The Pancoast syndrome is a relatively unusual form of lung cancer. These tumors are located in a groove in the upper part of the lungs, called superior sulcus. Due to the proximity of the affected area with the shoulder, it can cause an intense pain to the upper part of the back, in correspondence of the same area of the tumor.
A person suffering from Pancoast syndrome may also exhibit a group of typical symptoms of Horner’s syndrome, such as:
- Change the appearance of the eye, such as eyelid downward and reduction of the pupil;
- Asymmetrical sweating in the body.
The metastatic lung cancer is a type of cancer that also spread to other areas of the body, such as bones, lymph nodes and other nearby structures, such as the shoulders. This type of cancer can cause several specific symptoms, such as:
- Muscle pain and bone;
- Changes in the nervous system, such as weakness, headache, dizziness and seizures;
- Swollen lymph nodes.
How it is characterized the shoulder pain?
The shoulder pain can be a very frustrating symptom to diagnose, because there is not a characteristic cluster which is associated with lung cancer. One study on shoulder pain in people suffering from mesothelioma, for example, has shown that most of the patients, on a scale from 1 to 10, gave to the pain score of 4. Few people have more significant symptoms, as for example a reduction of the mobility.
What are the other symptoms associated with lung cancer?
About 80% of deaths from lung cancer in men and 90% in women are due to smoking. Although anyone can develop lung cancer, smokers are the most affected.
As was also described above, the shoulder pain is not among the most frequent symptoms. With the exception of a small number of cases, it is rarely the first symptom of lung cancer.
The most common symptoms of lung cancer are:
- Persistent cough
- Sputum with blood or with reddish mucosa
- Unexplained weight loss
- Difficulty in breathing
- Fatigue and weakness
- Long-term infections affecting the chest or respiratory system such as pneumonia or bronchitis
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What are the most common causes for shoulder pain?
Most pain in the shoulder has some causes quite common, as poor posture at the computer or muscle fatigue. Many people have shoulder pain as a result of:
- Minor trauma caused by muscle fatigue
- It referred pain from other areas of the body such as neck and back
- Trauma to the spine, such as disc herniation
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Stiff shoulder, limit movement
- Poor posture
Less often the shoulder pain can be caused by heart disease, gall bladder and liver disease. The neuropathic pain can cause numbness or tingling in the shoulder and often varies its position and expands over time.
How is the shoulder pain?
Most Shoulder pain is temporary and can be treated with certain precautions:
- Aching limb resting, avoiding movements and lifting even light weights;
- Ice packs for 20 minutes at a time;
- Tight bandage the affected area to reduce swelling;
- Sore area lifting.
Often you can have relief from pain even by the cold packs alternated with hot compresses, to increase blood flow, speed recovery and reduce pain. Other methods include light massage and pain medication, based on ibuprofen.
When you see a doctor?
Ultimately, you should be examined by your primary doctor if the pain lasts more than a few days, or if it is fluctuating. Depending on the disease or the patient’s condition, doctor may recommend …
- Physical exercise
- Surgery to repair structural problems
- Alternative methods, such as acupuncture and chiropractic care
- Medications to reduce the severity of the pain
Do not take drugs without a prescription or without having received at least one follow-up visit. As described above, the shoulder pain can have different origins and in the case of persistence, must be brought to the attention of a specialist.