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Lesser-known lung cancer symptom in arm or shoulder that can't be ignored

Shoulder and arm pain can be an indicator of lung cancer

Shoulder and arm pain can be an indicator of lung cancer© Getty Images

Lung cancer is a common form of the killer disease. It can spread quickly - often more so than other cancers - with cells moving through blood into the lungs and other parts of the body.

It is a cancer that is often only found once it has spread, meaning it is harder to treat. As with all cancers, the earlier it is found, the bigger the chance of surviving.

That means that spotting early - and lesser-known - signs could make a big difference to a patient's outcome. Lung cancer patients are usually aged 60 or older - and smokers are more likely to develop it, reports the Daily Record.

But second-hand smoke, radiation and substances such as asbestos, chromium and nickel compounds, are all causes as well, reports the Mirror. However, younger people and non-smokers may also be diagnosed.

Maintaining your general health as well as avoiding risk factors - such as smoking - can help reduce risk of developing the potentially fatal disease. Most commonly, the disease is found in the airways leading into the lungs. This can result in symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing and a persistent cough. Some people also bring up blood or phlegm when coughing.

However, there are other, lesser-known signs that should also be looked out for - such as pain or weakness in your shoulder. If a tumour is located at the top of the lung it can create pressure on the nerves and blood vessels going into the arm. This can result in pair and/or weakness in your shoulder or down your limbs - often a persistent sensation of pins and needles.

This sensation and pain can also be felt in the chest by some sufferers due to the location and size of the tumour. Clubbing of the fingers is also linked to lung cancer. This is where the tips of the fingers become swollen due to lack of oxygen. In other cases, the tumour might press against blood flow to the head, resulting in swelling around the face as well.

What are some other signs and symptoms of lung cancer?

According to the NHS, the most common symptoms of lung cancer are :

  • a cough that doesn’t go away after two or three weeks
  • a long-standing cough that gets worse
  • chest infections that keep coming back
  • coughing up blood
  • an ache or pain when breathing or coughing
  • persistent breathlessness
  • persistent tiredness or lack of energy
  • loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss

Cancerous cells can also release large quantities of hormones that can cause symptoms experienced in other parts of the body. It means that some may experience extreme fatigue and weight loss. Lung cancer can present with lung infections so it is important to consult a medical professional if you have been suffering from a long-term lung infection or if the illness has not responded to antibiotics or other treatments.

How to diagnose and treat lung cancer

Your doctor will arrange for you to have a chest X-ray if you are showing signs of lung cancer. This initial test can identify any abnormal structures in the lung that may indicate cancer.

However, it is important to note that experiencing any symptoms listed above does not necessarily mean you have lung cancer and can instead be linked to many other, less serious health conditions. If abnormalities are found, again, it does not mean that the structure is cancerous.

You will then usually be sent for a CAT scan which produces three-dimensional images of the lungs to allow for further examination. A biopsy from the lymph glands will also be taken to identify whether the possible cancer has spread out of the lungs.

Doctors will decide on a treatment plan if positive results are returned. It is always better to receive an early diagnosis, with this allowing for more treatment options and a possible cure. 

Story by Mya Bollan & Steven Smith: Wales On Line:

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