Lung Cancer Causes Shoulder Pain for Several Reasons

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A frequently asked question, does lung cancer cause shoulder pain? It can indeed lead to pain in the shoulder. Even sometime this symptom may signal early stages of the disease.  For such case, you usually also experience other signs and symptoms of lung cancer!

How to know if your shoulder pain is linked to lung cancer?

The description of shoulder pain may vary. But in general, it includes any pain that arises from your shoulder (in /around the shoulder). Typically, it worsens with movement /activities that involve the affected shoulder.

There are numerous conditions and diseases that can lead to pain in the shoulder. Even some diseases affecting structures in the chest and abdomen (such as gallbladder disease and heart disease) may also contribute to cause the problem.

So shoulder pain is attributed by many factors. Even some mild conditions can lead to this symptom, too. In other words, having it doesn’t mean you definitely have lung cancer.

image_illustration368The common causes of the problem include:

  1. Some people have poor posture and therefore they are easier than others to have shoulder pain.
  2. A condition called frozen shoulder. As the name suggests, it is a painful (freezing) shoulder that can significantly affect the range of motion in the affected shoulder. See more about frozen shoulder in here!
  3. The instability shoulder condition such as hypermobility (abnormal large range of movement). Unstable shoulder is easier to have injury which then may cause pain.
  4. Arthritis, a joint disease. Both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (two common types of arthritis) can affect shoulder joint, too!
  5. Conditions that affect acromioclavicular joint, the main joint at the top of the shoulder. Osteoarthritis can be one of these conditions.
  6. Disorders of rotator cuff, a group of tendons and muscles surrounding the joint of the shoulder. It helps to keep your shoulder joint stable!
  7. Bone fractures, especially one that occur in the humerus (upper arm bone).

And the cause is not always in the shoulder. The pain can originate in the joint itself, or may result from referred pain (a condition of when the pain arises from somewhere else in the body such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, or other organs around the shoulder).

Typically, referred shoulder pain is not associated with your physical activity involving the shoulder (it doesn’t worsen when you move the affected shoulder).

Shoulder pain related to lung cancer is usually referred pain and comes with other common symptoms of the disease! For clearly diagnosis of whether or not it is linked to cancer of the lung, see your doctor!

How does lung cancer cause shoulder pain?

There is usually no early sign and symptom of lung cancer. This is one of the reasons why the mortality rate of this cancer is high. Even it is the leading cancer that causes death.

However in a few cases, it has some early symptoms. One of these is shoulder pain. This symptom may occur during the course of the disease. And lung cancer can cause this symptom for several reasons.

Pancoast tumours

They are term used for cancers that grow right at the top part of the lungs. Typically, these types can lead to specific symptoms. One of these is shoulder pain.

These cancers may cause nerve damage, including for nerve that passes from the neck to the upper chest. As a result, patient may have pain in the shoulder. The pain may also travel down the arm.

Other symptoms called Horner syndrome may occur, too (particularly true if the cancer affects other nerves such as those that link to the eye and face). These symptoms include:


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