Pancoast Tumor?

November 24, 2020, 11:39 AM

Hi all, 

I have been reading posts on the forum and I apologise for my questions however I am very concerned. I am a 26 year old female smoker for a few years, and for the last 2 months I have been suffering with severe burning shoulder blade pain on my left side. The pain radiates down my arm and ring finger. I find it hard to find a position to sleep in as it's constant. I started to also get chest pains because of this and went to the A&E who did a chest x ray which was clear. I then done a MRI scan of my cervical and thoracic spine which showed a 'disc protrusion C5-C6 right paracentral' however my pain is on my left side not right. My GP doesn't think this is the cause of my pain and thinks it is just tense muscles however, I have had the pain for two months and it doesn't feel like muscle pain. I have spoken with a private GP who has given me a referral for a private CT scan without contrast. 

Can anyone give me some advice, anyone deal with anything similar? I have been having major anxiety over this. Thank you! 

JanineT Forum …
Posts: 534
Forum Moderator and former caregiver



I'm sorry you're having pain without knowing what it is.  That can be worrisome.  A chest CT without contrast will pick up a pancoast tumor that is causing pain.  So you will know for sure when the results come in.  We can't tell you you don't have a tumor but a pancoast tumor is a rare form of lung cancer and if you have lung cancer caused by smoking you'd be much older.  It takes years to build up the mutations that finally cause lung cancer.


However, pinched nerves cause a tremendous amount of problems and are quite common in all age groups.  Often scans can't pick up where or how but there are PT postures and exercises that can help.  It is typical to address these issues with a prescription to a physical therapist. 


I hope you get this straightened out soon.


I joined GRACE as a caregiver for my husband who had a Pancoast tumor, NSCLC stage III in 2009. He had curative chemo/rads then it was believed he had a recurrence in the spine/oligometastasis that was radiated. He's 10 years out from treatment.

Jim C Forum Mo…
Posts: 146

I too am sorry that you are suffering from this pain, and I will just add one observation to the good information Janine has already provided. There is a great deal of health-related information on the internet, but one thing that Google cannot do is provide the experience, perspective and judgment necessary to translate symptoms into an accurate diagnosis (and in any event that's often impossible without a full medical history, exam and diagnostic testing). As a result, over the years we have had many questions about pancoast tumors, from young people as yourself, and after further workup with their medical team not a single person has returned to state that they have been diagnosed with a pancoast tumor. So please try not to worry that there is any reasonable likelihood that you have a pancoast tumor. As Janine stated, a CT with contrast will almost certainly rule this out, and we hope that your doctors can find an alternate, less serious and relatively easily treated cause for your pain. 


Jim C Forum Moderator