Clubbed fingers

Very few people recognise clubbed fingers to be a sign of lung cancer. Whilst it is not a common symptom, clubbed fingers can often indicate a respiratory problem, so you need to contact your GP as soon as you spot any signs of finger clubbing.

Symptoms of clubbed fingers

Clubbed fingers are where your fingertips appear to swell. The appearance of your fingers changes, and become more curved, or their ends become larger.

  • Bulging fingertips
  • Downward curved nails
  • Warm and red fingertips
  • Soft nail beds.

The clubbing itself is not harmful, but it is an indication of an underlying condition including heart problems and lung cancer so it is vital you contact your GP as soon as possible.

Finger clubbing is also known as:

  • Digital clubbing
  • Watch-glass nails
  • Drumstick fingers
  • Hippocratic fingers
  • Hippocratic nails.

Brian spotted the difference

Brian’s one and only symptom was clubbing of the fingers. At the time, he had no idea it was symptom of lung cancer. Fortunately, his GP did and immediately referred him to a specialist. Brian went on to have surgery to remove his whole lung and has since retrained as a personal trainer, helping other cancer patients get fit for, or recover from surgery.

Spot the difference in your health

Under the guidelines of the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), your GP should consider referring you for an urgent chest x-ray to assess for lung cancer if you have clubbed fingers.

They should also 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.