Back Pain as a Symptom of Lung Cancer

Posted: July 19, 2015 at 3:44 am

Back pain as a symptom of lung cancer. istockphoto.com

Updated March 11, 2015.

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Its not uncommon for people to experience back pain with lung cancer, or even have back pain as their first symptom of lung cancer. Of course, there are many causes of back pain that are more common than lung cancer. In addition, back pain in people with lung cancer may be related to their cancer, or another cause such as arthritis. What causes back pain with lung cancer, and how does the pain differ from other causes of back pain?

Back pain also may be caused by the spread (metastasis) of lung cancer to bones in the spine, or adrenal glands, small glands in the abdomen near the top of the kidneys. Roughly 30 to 40% of people with lung cancer experience the spread of cancer to their bones at some time during their illness.

That said, back pain that is present along with other symptoms of lung cancer may be more concerning.

These may include a persistent cough, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, or general symptoms such as fatigue or unexplained weight loss. Other symptoms that may be of concern include back pain that is present at rest or at night, that occurs without any activity, or is worse when you take a deep breath.

Lung cancer that is first noticed as back pain is often diagnosed after treatments such as physical therapy fail to make the pain go away. If you have pain that is persisting despite treatment be sure to make your doctor aware so she can recommend further evaluation.

The treatment of back pain related to lung cancer depends upon the underlying cause. If the pain is related to pressure from the tumor, treatments to decrease the tumor size such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy may be considered. If bone metastasesare present and causing pain, treatment to address the metastasesis important.

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Back Pain as a Symptom of Lung Cancer

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