Worried sick about Pancoast Tumor

Tue, 06/30/2020 - 12:51

Hello, I'm a 24 years old female and I never smoked a cigarette in my life. For the last two months, I have experienced pain in the right side of my neck, shoulder, back and something it goes to my hand, pinky finger and all. My right supraclavicular fossa is slighly swollen and I'm going nuts about the fact that it Is because is a supraclavicular lymph node (I read they get enlarged because of methastasis from a lung cancer), I went to 3 different doctors and they say it is not a lymph node but that the muscles there are very tense and that's why it hurts. They did cervical x ray and it showed that I have ana stiff neck and a big contracture on my right trapezius. The doctor said that if it was a Pancoast tumor making all the syntoms it would show ib the cervical x ray because it shows the upper part of the lung. 

All of my blood test came back perfec,t except deficiency of vitamine D, the doctor Said that I would be feeling better after taking the pills for it. But the pain Is still there, sometimes I feel like my neck is burning, I'm so so scared. I can't sleep well at night because of the anxiety. Should I keep going to different doctors? I don't know what to do. 

Jim C Forum Mo…

Hi Nicole,


Welcome to GRACE. I'm sorry to hear that you have been experiencing so much pain, and that it has caused you so much concern. But at your age, and  with no mass apparent on your xray, it is extremely unlikely that you have a pancoast tumor. Lung cancer generally takes many years to develop, and and even longer for it to get to the point where it is causing such significant symptoms. You just haven't been walking this earth long enough for that to happen!

Whether or not you need to see additional doctors, you should probably focus on musculoskeletal causes rather than cancer. I certainly hope that very soon you can find some relief from your pain.


Jim C Forum Moderator 



Hello, Jim. I know that it is unlikely but lately I've been reading about young women with stage IV cancer on internet and I feel that it is what is happening to me. I feel lymph nodes above my right clavicle but the doctors said that they can't feel it, that the muscle is too tense, that's all. I'm losing weight, lost 4 pounds in two months, my terapist says it is because of my anxiety but I don't think so. When I run too fast, I feel some kind of pain in the right side of my back and I think it is because of the lung too. Everyone says that it is in my head but I don't know. My symptoms sound like a lung tumor?


I have very similar symtoms as you I have right shoulder pain if I use a heat pack it goes still left with prickling sensation down right arm hand , side of my face has strange sensation like b CJ I'm in gout of dentist feeling when they numb you worsened in the last 3 months I had another cervical spine mri that revealed my C5c6 from last year had slightly worsened doesn't explain what I'm having now I've had bloods done low on b12 so just had 2 weeks of shots and folic acid I feel very unwell the right arm aches to I've had 2 neuro surgeons well 3 now view my scans mri and all agreed it's not my neck causing the issues with my shoulder and arm pain it's exhausting I've ringing in ears also constant and a lump above collar bone Gp said scapular but was investigated as a U2 benign nodule still worried even though all the tests are coming back it's driving me mad with worry the constant ringing in ears and swollen neck there must be some connection ? The only time I'm at peace is when I'm asleep I can't do much else I'm agitated with it and stressed nothing helps it I've not lost any weight and appetite has slightly reduced next mri booked for 24yj July for the right shoulder I'm truly very scared in case they find a tumour but I've had 2 mri on spine and nothing showed my coping isn't to good with all this I'm moody upset and always crying I just do not know I guess how to get well again I understand how you feel it's such a worry 

JanineT Forum …

Hi Nicole and Milley,


Welcome to Grace.  I'm sorry you're having these problems.  As Jim said it is extremely unlikely your pain is caused by a pancoast tumor...even if all your symptoms were indicative of one.  The symptoms sound like those I have from a cervical disk issue though I can't remember which 2 but I think c5 and 6 like yours, Milly.  My pain has morphed over the years as I write this I am experiencing pain in the right side of my neck, shoulder, back and it's going to my hand.  If I'm not diligent with a yoga practice, hydration, and how I'm sitting or lying my arms and hands become numb, tingly and painful (I even developed trigger finger at one point but is now healed).  There are small positions/postures and exercises that have an immediate effect.  I like exercises from Bob and Brad on youtube.  They are both experienced and successful physical therapists in Minnesota and have a popular youtube channel that I use.  I learned positions that can immediately release the pressure on the nerve/s that's causing numbness I even learned how to heal my trigger finger from them.  Plus they try to be funny (though a lot of their comic successes come from trying not being :) ).  I only hesitate to send the link because they sell products...Skip any video that uses a product/prop and you shouldn't be bothered...This link has a list specifically for neck, shoulder, arm pain


My husband had a pancoast tumor and I thought at first it was a pinched nerve like mine.  His doc thought so too.  In hindsight there were differences like extreme tenderness in the area where the tumor was, he had to hold his arm at the elbow to fend off the pain.  He didn't run without a tremendous amount to pain.  The pain got worse and never really let up.  All of this sounds awful and it was.  However, pain is a good thing when it comes to lung cancer.   Lungs don't have nerves, so often lung cancer has to metastasize before it is found.  It's one of the reasons why lung cancer is so dangerous.  Since a pancoast tumor grows out of the lung and into the chest wall the damage it causes also causes a lot of pain; it's caught early enough to be cured.  My husband's was cured with just radiation and chemo.  So the upside of pain and pancoast tumors is that the pain literally becomes unbearable before it becomes incurable. 


 I hope you try healing from a noninvasive musculoskeletal system point of view/Physical Therapy because that's probably what's best and what a good doctor would look at first.  And we as patients have to be tenacious to get what we need.  Changing doctors is often not an option but crafting a working relationship with your doctor is worth trying. 


Wear a mask,






Hello Nicole,

Just wanted to share my experience since I'm in a situation thats very similar to yours. Young (21 yo), non-smoker who has been experiencing a wide array of pains centered around the right part of my neck, shoulder (especially in and around the shoulder blade), upper back and arm/hand since January of this year (7 months and counting, even though it has evolved over the course of these 7 months). Interestingly enough it first started with chest pain that progressively migrated to my upper back. My muscles are excessively tight and my right supraclavicular fossa is also swollen. Classic pain medications (Ibuprofen + benzodiazepines) have been fairly inneficient so far. I struggled with various anxiety related issues including insomnia. I had classic blood tests as well as a thoracic spine xray in late may which revealed nothing at all, and I have been told a pancoast tumor would have been seen on this xray since the apex of my lung is clearly visible. I am currently waiting for a cervical MRI that will be done in september to try and pinpoint the underlying cause of my chronic pains that do not seem to be vanishing at all (but aren't significantly increasing in intensity either). 

Good luck !