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Back or shoulder pain

Many people would not associate back or shoulder pain with lung cancer, but it can be a symptom of the disease and therefore should not be ignored or dismissed. Many people who are living with lung cancer will experience back pain at some point and it tends to get worst the longer it is undiagnosed.

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

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

It can take up to six months to recover from back or 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.

Michelle spotted the difference

When Michelle first spotted she was having back pain, she didn’t delay. She took herself immediately to the doctors. When her blood tests came back negative, she persevered and asked for a scan because she was sure something was wrong… and she was right.

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.