Lung cancer symptoms: The uncomfortable joint problems that could signal the disease

Lung cancer: Dr Amir describes the symptoms in February

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With around 48,500 new lung cancer cases diagnosed in the UK every year, it is the third most common cancer in the country. Although for some people the early stages of the disease can remain symptomless, the other more common signs include having a change in a persistent cough, recurring chest infections or coughing up blood. Cancer Research UK has warned of other things to look out for, that you might not associate with the disease.

According to the charity, pain and swelling in the joints – known as hypertrophic pulmonary osteoarthropathy (HPOA) – can be linked to people with non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for about 80 percent of lung cancers.

Cancer Research UK says: “HPOA is a group of symptoms that can affect the organs, lungs, bones and joints.“

In cancer, HPOA can be caused by substances released by the tumour. Or it could be caused by substances the body makes when reacting to the tumour.

“We don’t really know why some people with lung cancer get it and others don’t.”

It explains: “HPOA most often causes inflammation of bones and joints in the wrists and ankles.“

Sometimes this shows up on bone scans or X-rays.“

Ankles and wrists can become swollen and inflamed, causing a lot of pain and difficulty with movement.

”Getting treated for the lung cancer can help to reduce the effects, but there are also specific treatments for HPOA.


“Painkillers, such as non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can reduce the inflammation and help to reduce swelling and pain,” Cancer Research UK states.

“There have been some reports that drugs called bisphosphonates can help to relieve pain in people with HPOA.

“Bisphosphonates help to slow the breakdown of bone. But we don’t yet know how well these drugs work in helping to treat symptoms of HPOA.

”HPOA can also present as swollen fingers and toes, called clubbing.

Cancer Research UK says: “This means the fingers and toes broaden at the ends.

“Nails curve, thicken and appear spoon-shaped.“

Clubbing of the fingers is a common symptom of lung and heart conditions.

“No one knows exactly why clubbing develops but it may be because there is not enough oxygen in the blood.”

If you experience HPOA you are advised to see your GP.

“The symptoms of HPOA can make you uncomfortable and can be very hard to cope with,” Cancer Research UK adds.

“Your doctors will do all they can to make sure you are as comfortable as possible.

“Your doctor or specialist nurse can give you information about your condition.”

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