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Yes, it can. Someone with lung cancer may notice pain or weakness in the shoulder (as well as in the chest, back, arm or hand). Shoulder pain may occur if a lung tumor exerts pressure on a nearby nerve or if lung cancer spreads to the bones in or around the shoulder. It’s important to note, however, that shoulder pain could also result from a condition completely unrelated to cancer, such as arthritis.

If shoulder pain occurs when resting, worsens at night or doesn’t involve any loss of motion, it may indicate lung cancer. Other lung cancer signs include:

  • A chronic, hacking cough
  • Blood-tinged mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic wheezing
  • A harsh vibrating sound while breathing
  • Hoarseness
  • Recurrent respiratory infections like pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite and unintended weight loss
  • Swelling in the face and neck
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent chest pain unrelated to coughing

Signs of a Pancoast tumor

Shoulder pain can also be a sign of a Pancoast tumor (also referred to as a “superior sulcus tumor”), a rare type of lung cancer that begins in the rounded upper section of the lung and spreads to nearby areas of the body. Although a Pancoast tumor is a form of lung cancer, individuals with this condition generally don’t experience any respiratory issues. Instead, they may notice:

  • Pain in the shoulder, arm, armpit, upper back or between the shoulder blades
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling
  • Loss of sensation
  • Facial flushing
  • Excessive facial sweating

In some instances, someone with a Pancoast tumor may also develop the symptoms of Horner’s syndrome, which include drooping eyelids and reduced pupil size.

Lung cancer diagnosis and treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain or any other lung cancer signs, you can turn to the experienced team at Moffitt Cancer Center. Our Thoracic Oncology Program handles all stages of lung cancer, including rare malignancies. To speak with one of our lung cancer specialists, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.