Shoulder Pain and 7 Symptoms of Lung Cancer

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Many people ask the question if shoulder blade pain can be a symptom of lung cancer or even breast cancer. The answer is yes. Sometimes shoulder blade pain is a symptom of cancer and most often, unfortunately is the first symptom.

But you cannot put this kind of diagnosis based only on this fact. However if you experience shoulder pain over long periods of time, coupled with other respiratory problems and symptoms you should definitely go see your doctor.

The overall symptoms of lung cancer are:

1. Coughing most of the time.
2. Any cough you’ve had before worsens.
3. Shortness of breath.
4. Blood appears in the phlegm you cough up.
5. Ache or pain when breathing.
6. Loss of appetite and tiredness.
7. Sudden weight loss with dramatic changes in your appearance.

How does lung cancer cause shoulder pain?

There are a number of reasons lung cancer can generate shoulder pain. One of them is the fact that the tumor might put pressure on the phrenic nerve within the lungs. The brain interprets this information as a pain signal coming from the shoulder.

Anther reason lung cancer can give pain in the shoulder blade area is that is can spread to the bones. The bones frequently affected are the bones in the shoulder. A large number of people with lung cancer can develop secondary tumors called metastases in the bone at some time during the evolution of their disease.

Shoulder pain can come from metastases developed from any kind of cancer. There are noted cases when shoulder pain was coming from breast cancer that metastasized.

The third reason lung cancer can have shoulder pain as a symptom are the pancoast tumors. These are a form of lung cancer that develops in the upper part of the lungs. This tumor has a high possibility to invade the tissues near the shoulder. Sometimes the pain they cause can radiate down the arm.

Due to their peculiar nature, they might not have the same symptoms like conventional tumors have like: persistent coughs, shortness of breath or coughing up blood.

How can I make a difference between shoulder pain related to cancer and other kinds of 
shoulder pain?

Sadly you cannot. The pain is diffuse and not that intense and it can be easily mistaken for arthritis, frozen shoulder or even impingement syndrome.

You should keep an eye out for symptoms like: the shoulder pain accentuates at night, the pain is still there, even though you’re not moving your arm and the presence of pain is not associated with loss of movement (like in frozen shoulder or impingement syndrome).

Also if any of the above symptoms appear, you should go see your doctor.The treatment you might receive is of the underlying cause. If the tumor is to o big and puts pressure on the nerve, your doctor might suggest removing or reducing it, depending on your overall health status and prognosis.

Radiation therapy might be another way to reduce the size and alleviate the symptoms. Also chemotherapy might be used to complete the treatment. If the pain worsens and if your condition permits it, you can try pain medication.

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