Shoulder pain

Many people would not associate shoulder pain with lung cancer, but it can be a symptom of the disease and therefore should not be ignored or dismissed. Shoulder pain tends to get worst the longer lung cancer is undiagnosed.

However, there are many different causes, and more likely causes, of shoulder pain including:

  • Sprain or strain
  • Poor posture
  • Slipped disc
  • Sciatica
  • Arthritis.

It can take up to six months to recover from shoulder pain. However, you should continue to go back to your GP if the pain is getting worse, or if you have any other symptoms, such as:

  • Persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Chest infections, coughing up blood, or chest pain
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness.

Nick’s story

At just 45, it never crossed Nick’s mind that his shoulder pain could be a symptom of lung cancer. The pain got worse and worse. It got so bad, Nick could barely sleep. He had an x-ray on his shoulder and was sent to a specialist, who couldn’t understand why he was in as much as he was.

Eventually, when Nick started to get breathless, his doctor started to piece things together and sent him for another x-ray, only this time it was of his chest. Nick went on to be diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and now wants to share his experience to improve people’s awareness of this lesser known symptom of lung cancer.

Spot the difference in your health

Back or shoulder pain can be hard to spot and easy to believe it has been caused by something less sinister than lung cancer so we have created a symptoms tracker where you can keep a note of:

  • When your symptoms started
  • The frequency of your symptoms
  • Any other potential symptoms.

You can then take this along to your doctor’s appointment to give them the fuller picture of your symptoms.

Under the guidelines of the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), your GP should offer you an urgent chest x-ray if you are:

  • over 40
  • two or more symptoms including breathlessness, or
  • one symptom and have ever smoked.

Symptoms for urgent chest x-ray include:

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss
  • Appetite loss.

If you are not offered a chest x-ray and you mean this criteria, or if you are really worried about your symptoms, don’t be afraid to ask for an x-ray, or for a second opinion.