Managing Pain Associated With Lung Cancer
Palliative care is a specialized field that aims to alleviate symptoms and maximize the patients quality of life. Palliative care does not focus on curing the disease or prolonging life, which is the goal of other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. However, palliative care is an important part of the patients treatment plan and encompasses physical symptoms, psychosocial distress, spiritual distress, and caregiver distress.1
The management of pain due to lung cancer may include a combination of medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , corticosteroids, opioids , and antidepressants. For metastases to the bone, radiation therapy and the use of bisphosphonates can alleviate pain. In addition, smoking cessation is recommended, as surveys have revealed that lung cancer patients who continue to smoke after diagnosis have a higher incidence of pain and other lung cancer complications than nonsmokers and those who quit smoking.2,3
Lung Cancer In Women And Men
Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer diagnosed in both men and women , according to the American Cancer Society . Only prostate cancer is more common for men, and breast cancer is more common for women.
However, lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer death for both genders by far compared with other cancers. Below is a look at the statistics.
- About 119,100 men and 116,660 women are expected to be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2021, according to the ACS, with an estimated 69,410 deaths among men and 62,470 among women.
- The number of men diagnosed with lung cancer has decreased in the past four-plus decades, according to the American Lung Association. Diagnosis rates among women were on the rise during the same time period but have started to decline.
- Women tend to be diagnosed at an earlier age than men.
- Women who develop lung cancer before menopause are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced disease.
Upper Back Symptoms: When In Doubt See Your Doctor
Because the thoracic spine isnt as susceptible to certain spinal disorders as the cervical spine or lumbar spine , some people may think its immune to pain or other problems. This certainly isnt the case.
Common symptoms of upper back painlike muscle pain, stiffness, and tightnessare often caused by poor body mechanics or spinal injury. But in very rare cases, upper back pain is a sign of a more serious medical issue. If your upper or mid-back pain just wont go away or if its interfering with your daily life, call your doctor. He or she will get to the root of your upper back pain, create a treatment plan for you, and help you learn ways to potentially prevent it in the future.
Migala J. 11 Signs Your Upper Back Pain Is Serious Trouble. Readers Digest. https://www.rd.com/health/conditions/signs-your-upper-back-pain-is-serious-trouble/. Last accessed January 9, 2020.
Upper and Middle Back Pain. Michigan Medicine. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aba5320. Last reviewed September 20, 2018. Last accessed January 9, 2020.
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What Upper Back Symptoms Warrant A Trip To The Doctor
Most bouts of upper back pain gradually go away on their own or with conservative at-home treatment . However, some symptoms are more serious than others and require swift medical attention.
- Severe, persistent upper or mid-back pain that develops suddenly
- Pain that is progressively worsening
- Pain that hasnt gone away in a week
- Pain that is interfering with your daily life
- Pain that isnt responding to conservative treatment
- Neurologic symptoms
In rare cases, upper back pain is indicative of a serious and/or painful medical problem, including lung cancer, kidney stones, or spinal infection.
Additionally, because the thoracic spine is linked to the ribs, some people with upper back pain report sharp pain when filling their lungs with air to take a deep breath. Though this symptom may be benign, it could also be a sign of a blood clot. If you feel faint, short of breath, or a spike in upper or mid-back pain when you take a deep breath, see your doctor immediately to rule out a potentially life-threatening pulmonary embolism.
Finally, its especially important to see a doctor after youve endured a traumatic injury, such as a fall. Even if you arent experiencing any back pain, you should be evaluated by a physician to ensure your spine did not sustain damage .
Lung Cancer Warning Signs
While lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the U.S., its not often detected early. However, lung cancer screening offers hope for catching the cancer early when its easier to treat.
Unlike some other cancers, lung cancer usually has no noticeable symptoms until its in an advanced stage. When the tumor grows large enough to press against other organs it causes pain and discomfort. Sometimes, there are earlier warning signs that are a signal to call the doctor.
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Lung Cancer Back Pain: I Knew Something Was Wrong
Jennifer, just 32 years old, mother of three children, the youngest just months old, with no symptoms other than that annoying back pain, no history of smoking or being around second-hand smoke, had lung cancer.
Days later, she would meet with her oncologist and learn that her cancer is Stage 4. They immediately performed lung cancer biomarker testing, which came back positive for the ALK mutation. Jennifer is currently on an oral targeted therapy, which, after some initial unpleasant symptoms, she is tolerating well and living her life pretty normally.
My whole life I have struggled with anxiety. I was so concerned about the past and the future that I was unable to live in the present. Once the initial shock wore off, I noticed that my anxiety has decreased significantly. And I am not only living in the present but that my life is now more fulfilling than ever before.
Scared I Have Lung Cancer
Sorry if I offend anyone as I haven’t been diagnosed with cancer although I am fearful I may have it. I have had a persistent cough for going on 14 weeks now and recently coughed up a little blood, I also had a little upper back pain intermittently. I am an ex smoker of 17 years and I am a man of 39 years old.
This prompted a visit to the gp who said it was probably viral or could be acid reflux and prescribed me some antibiotics and anti reflux meds. He also sent me for a chest x ray too which was clear. The cough has got better but is still there.
I brought up a little blood again a week later not through coughing but though pulling it up from my throat so contacted an out of hours GP who sent me to A& E to get checked out. They took bloods and examined me and sent me for another chest x ray both the bloods and x ray were clear.
I think the a& e doctor may have taken pity on me as she said everything looks fine but was gonna send me for a ct scan to put my mind at rest. I still have the cough and intermittent back pain also have had a little fleeting arm pain and weakness, could be down to aniexty as I am so nervous and worried it’s pretty much on my mind all the time.
I have two young children you see and it terrifies me I won’t get to see them grow up.
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Types Of Spinal Tumors
A spinal tumor is an abnormal growth of cells within the spinal column. These tumors may be cancerous or noncancerous . A cancerous tumor is composed of abnormal cells that continue to divide uncontrollably and have the potential to spread via the blood or lymphatic system.
There are 2 general types of spinal tumors:
- Primary tumors originate in the spinal column. While most primary tumors are noncancerous, some are cancerous.
- Secondary tumors, also called metastatic tumors, have spread to the spine from another part of the body. Metastatic tumors are cancerous. About 90% of diagnosed spinal tumors are metastatic.1,2
Metastatic spinal cord tumors develop when cancer cells from other parts of the body, such as the breast, kidney, or lung, migrate through the bloodstream and become lodged in the spine. Most metastatic spinal tumors occur in the thoracic spine.
Spinal tumors can also be classified by whether they are outside the spinal cord , within the spinal cords protective covering , or within the spinal cord itself .
A Cough That Wont Quit Or Changes
Be on alert for a new cough that lingers. A cough associated with a cold or respiratory infection will go away in a week or so, but a persistent cough that lingers can be a symptom of lung cancer.
Also pay attention to any changes in a chronic cough, particularly if you smoke.
If youre coughing more often, your cough is deeper or sounds hoarse, or youre coughing up blood or an unusual amount of mucus, its time to make a doctors appointment.
Dont be tempted to dismiss a stubborn cough, whether its dry or produces mucus. See your doctor right away. They will listen to your lungs and may order an X-ray or other tests.
If a family member or friend experiences these changes, suggest that they reach out to a doctor.
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Back Or Shoulder Pain
A Pancoast tumor is a type of lung cancer that grows in the upper part of your lung and spreads to your ribs, vertebrae in your spine, nerves, and blood vessels. Because of where these tumors grow, they rarely affect your respiratory system. They’re more likely to make your shoulder blade, upper back, and arm hurt instead.
When Back Pain Requires Emergent Treatment
In some people who have metastases to their spine, a condition called malignant spinal cord compression may develop. The symptoms include worsening back pain, weakness of the legs, and sometimes loss of urinary or bowel control. This is a medical emergency, and immediate treatment is needed to prevent complications such as paralysis.
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He Went To The Hospital With Chest Pains Which Were At First Diagnosed As Angina
Some people only discovered they had lung disease during a routine medical check-up or when consulting their doctor about another matter. One man went to his GP for a prescription and his GP noticed ‘clubbing’ of his finger nails, a sign of lung cancer, but also of various other diseases.
Fatigue, breathlessness and loss of weight are common with lung cancer. Chest pain or discomfort can occur one woman had pain down her arm and numb fingers.
Loss of voice may also indicate that something is wrong. One man initially thought it was due to a chest infection, but it was a sign that lung cancer had recurred. Swelling of the face or neck may also be a sign of lung cancer.
Some people diagnosed with lung cancer had repeated chest infections that did not respond to antibiotics. Many others complained of a persistent cough and some found blood in their sputum or were coughing up quite large amounts of blood.
Yeah well I first noticed, first took ill in December 99 for the really severe chest infection. Went to my GP, had a course of antibiotics, which was like a seven day course, completed the course and the chest infection cleared, and then five days later it was all back again. Went back to my GP, who asked me if I’d finished the course and I said, ‘Yes, of course’. Gave me another course of antibiotics, completely finished that course, completely cleared up, five days later back again. So she sent me down the hospital for a chest x-ray.
The Course Of A Cancerous Spinal Tumor
Cancer is more likely to occur with age.3 People who are older than age 50 or previously had cancer are at an increased risk of developing a cancerous spinal tumor.1
A cancerous spinal tumors rate of growth can vary depending on the type. A tumor may be relatively small and contained within the spine, or it could have already spread through blood or lymph from another area of the body. An untreated cancerous spinal tumor is likely to keep growing and may become life-threatening.
Treatment options for spinal cancer may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and/or surgical removal of the tumor. In cases when the patient is unlikely to tolerate surgery well or has advanced cancer, palliative care may be offered to reduce pain and stay as comfortable as possible, rather than removing the tumor.
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Pancoast Tumor Risk Factors
Pancoast tumors and other lung cancers share many of the same risk factorsa characteristic or behavior that may increase the likelihood of developing a certain condition. Established risk factors for Pancoast tumors include:
- Smoking tobacco
- Prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke, asbestos or other industrial substances, such as nickel and chromium
- Being male
- Being between the ages of 50 and 60
Pancoast tumors can affect anyone, including individuals who do not have any known risk factors for this cancer. Still, people with one or more risk factors should be particularly mindful to seek care for symptoms and receive appropriate treatment.
Could My Back Pain Be Spine Cancer
For people who have severe back pain, it is natural to wonder whether or not the pain might be a sign of spinal cancer. While most back pain is unrelated to cancer or tumors, it is possible and important to check out. This article explains when back pain may be related to a spinal tumor, how to get an accurate diagnosis, and what to consider for treatment options.
Tumors growing within the vertebrae can make the spinal bones weak, causing them to break and collapse. Watch:Metastatic Spinal Cancer Video
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The Lottery Of Lung Cancer
Given her new diagnosis, Samantha was transferred to MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, where she underwent more tests. Initially, doctors planned to remove just her right lunguntil they discovered that the cancer had spread to her left lung. At the same time, more tests also uncovered what turned out to be hopeful news: Samantha had the EGFR mutation.
“I won the lottery of lung cancer I think, because there were drugs that were targeted for my type of mutation,” says Samantha, who had non-small cell lung cancerwith a genetic mutation of epidermal growth factor receptor . According to CancerCare, a national non-profit, that mutation means she produces too much EGFR protein, a normal substance that helps cells grow and divide, so her cells grow and divide too quickly. The lucky part? Unlike other cancers and mutations, there is a targeted and potentially effective treatment for the EGFR mutation. Drugs known as EGFR inhibitors block the EGFR receptors on the cell surface, slowing or stopping the growth of the cancer. Doctors put Samantha on one of these drugs.
“I just knew it was stage IV cancer, because it came from another organ.”
“It recognizes the mutation in my DNA, so I dont get nearly the side effects Id get on chemo,” says Samantha. “But I have to take it once a day for the rest of my life. And, eventually, it will stop working.”
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Symptoms Of Upper Back Pain
Many cases of upper back pain are caused by problems affecting the soft tissues in your spine . Sprain, strain, and muscle tension are common soft tissue injuries that may cause pain and other symptoms in your upper and middle back. This article describes symptoms of upper back pain, including the red flags you should never ignore.Sprain, strain, and muscle tension are common soft tissue injuries that may cause pain and other symptoms in your upper and middle back. Photo Source: 123RF.com.
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Types Of Pain In Lung Cancer
Pain is generally considered the most common symptom of lung cancer. Pain is often caused by multiple factors and its management needs to be multi-disciplinary to address all these aspects. In cancer, pain can be characterized into two areas: acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain is usually due to a definable injury or illness. Acute pain may be a secondary cause of cancer, such as a severe bleeding into a tumor, bone pain caused by a metastasis , or abdominal pain caused by a metastasis that obstructs the bowel. Acute pain is usually experienced for a limited duration and is predictable. It is usually associated with clinical signs such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure, sweating, and pale skin.3
Chronic cancer pain may be a result of the same causes as acute pain but it is experienced for a much longer duration. Chronic pain can persist for more than 12 hours a day and often has a gradual or poorly defined onset. Approximately 75 percent of cancer patients live with chronic pain.3
Many cancer patients experience flares of pain despite using pain medications. These flares are called breakthrough cancer pain. Breakthrough pain greatly impairs a patients quality of life and can cause additional psychological burden.3
Be Aware Of All The Symptoms
Some people who are diagnosed with lung cancer like Heather may only experience back pain. Other people may have several other symptoms. Some people even have no symptoms.
As well as back pain, shoulder pain and neck pain, other signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:
- Persistent cough for 3 weeks or more
- Loss of appetite and/or unexplained weight loss
- Coughing up blood or blood in your phlegm
- Unexplained fatigue or lack of energy
- Swelling in the face or neck
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