Pancoast tumor

Mon, 03/15/2021 - 06:43

This is for my mom aged 55. She has been experiencing sharp ache down her left arm for 4 months (which is worse at night.) The pain starts from the bottom of the skull, radiates to the upper back, shoulders and finally travels to the left arm and fingers. Pain killers and exercises are not helping. She also gets mild morning cough (with little or no phlegm) and random episodes of breathlessness (specially after morning physical activity). She has always been a healthy person. She has never smoked. From what I have read on the internet, these are the symptoms of a pancoast tumor or lung cancer that has metastasized to the bones. 

Note- She got a chest X ray 4 years back which came back clear, no diabetes, no hypertension, blood work normal, abdominal usg (3 months back) also normal. 


JanineT Forum …

Hi Rathika,


Welcome to Grace.  I'm sorry your mom is having all this pain.  The symptoms you've described don't really point to pancoast tumor as much as a pinched nerve at your spine.  If you attend to it early with PT and a close eye of the therapist she may well learn how to manage or heal it.  If she waits years like I did she'll have to work at it a little harder. 


  The normal course of lung cancer is that it doesn't show itself early through symptoms because there are no nerve endings in the lungs to cause pain that sends you to the doc to find lung cancer in the early stages. It's not usually found until the tumor pushes against some other structures in the area causing pain and or cough, at that point, it's usually advanced. 


On the other hand, a pancoast tumor does cause pain from the beginning because it's growing out into the chest wall where there are bundles of nerves and mechanical structures to cause tons of pain which does get you to the doc faster than if it were contained in the lungs.  And it doesn't cause cough.  A CT won't miss it. 


I hope your mom finds that she only has a pinched nerve and can mend it. 

All the best,



You can also ask for a new xray to see if something shows up. I agree with Janine. Many people read up on pancoast and automatically think they have it. It's normally a large tumor by the time you feel any symptoms, including pain. I had two pinched nerves in my neck for 5 years until I saw a chiropractor. They had me back in shape within  2 months. No more pinched nerves or pain. This is what I'd try. 

Take care, Judy