What causes so much pain in lung cancer?

Medically Reviewed by Checkmark Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Sravanthi Sunkaraneni
Pain is caused by advanced lung cancer that invades the chest wall and interferes with the normal respiratory functions. Evidence states that skeletal metastatic disease, pancoast tumours and chest wall disease are the three leading causes of discomfort in patients with advanced lung cancer. Furthermore, breathing difficulties brought on by pleural effusion from lung cancer may exacerbate chest pain.


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Advanced lung cancer that spreads to the lining of the lungs and other sites like bones can cause pain. When lung cancer grows and spreads to the bones, the profusely multiplied cancer cells can apply pressure on the bones, spine, spinal cord or nerves to induce pain in the neck or back. Also, the pain can spread to the arms, buttocks and legs. Likewise, the cancer cells from the lungs can spread to other parts of the body and press on residing nerves to induce pain.

A study has also shown that lung cancer can result in fluid filling in the chest around the lungs, called pleural effusion and cause shortness of breath. As chest pain often becomes worse with shortness of breath, deep breathing, coughing or laughing, lung cancer can be painful for many people. 

A (2012) study shows that ‘the three main causes of pain in patients with advanced lung cancer are skeletal metastatic disease (34%), Pancoast tumour (31%) and chest wall disease (21%)’.

We have already discussed above in the answer that lung cancer undergoes metastasis to bones. A pancoast tumour located at the apex of the right or left lung can invade surrounding muscles, connective tissue, upper vertebrae, nerves, lymph nodes, and upper ribs to cause pain in the arm or shoulder.

Another study has shown that lung cancer can invade the chest wall and in some cases, compromise normal respiratory functions. The most common symptom of extension of lung cancer to the chest wall is pain.

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Disclaimer
Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can further read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

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