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Pancoast Tumor: The Overlooked Etiology of Shoulder Pain in Smokers

Mistake in diagnosis

Malak Al Shammari, Ali Hassan, Mahdi Al Jawad, Abdulaziz Farea, Abdulelah Almansour, Ghada Al Yousif, Abdulaziz Sebiany, Zahia Bin Bakr

Saudi Arabia Department of Family and Community Medicine, College of Medicine, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Am J Case Rep 2020; 21:e926643

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.926643

Available online: 2020-08-07

Published: 2020-09-11


#926643

BACKGROUND: Shoulder pain is a common complaint in general practice and typically has an orthopedic or rheumatological etiology. However, it may be the presenting symptom of a serious underlying condition, such as lung cancer.
CASE REPORT: A 60-year-old man with a 30 pack-year history of smoking presented with worsening right shoulder pain over the last 6 months. He had no respiratory symptoms or weight change. He was seen at several general practice clinics and treated for a rotator cuff injury. However, his pain became severe, to the point that it affected his activities of daily living. A shoulder X-ray revealed opacity in the right apical zone. After a thorough investigation, the patient was found to have lung cancer with local invasion and intracranial metastases. However, in light of the advanced stage of the disease, a palliative approach was taken. The patient remained on multiple oral analgesics for the control of his pain.
CONCLUSIONS: The present case shows that common symptoms such as shoulder pain can be indicative of serious underlying pathology. Physicians should remain alert and maintain a high index of suspicion for Pancoast tumor in patients who are heavy smokers. Furthermore, a chest X-ray needs to be performed in elderly patients and smokers with shoulder pain.

Keywords: Lung Neoplasms, Pancoast Syndrome, shoulder pain



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