Shoulder pain may signal mesothelioma

Most people in North Carolina who have been exposed to airborne asbestos fibers understand that they are at risk for contracting mesothelioma, an aggressive lung cancer that is caused almost exclusively by this exposure. Yet diagnosing mesothelioma can be difficult because the disease can take more than 20 years to become symptomatic after the fibers are inhaled. A recent study by researchers in Poland may help these people obtain an earlier diagnosis and earlier treatment.

The researchers studied the case histories of 49 mesothelioma patients treated in the Central Clinical Hospital in Warsaw from 2006 to 2012. Seven of these patients – 14.3% – reported shoulder pain as their first symptom of mesothelioma. The pain was relatively mild, averaging 4 on the pain scale of one to ten. Five of the patients also reported stiffness and limited mobility in their shoulder joints.

The researchers were unable to definitely establish a causal link between the mesothelioma and the shoulder pain. They concluded that mesothelioma may have a “pleiotropic” effect on the body, triggering symptoms in unrelated parts of the body, such as the nervous system. The good news, if it can be called that, is that persons who have been exposed to asbestos can be on the lookout for shoulder pain as an early indicator of mesothelioma, in addition to the more usual mesothelioma symptoms of coughing, difficulty breathing, and chest pain.

A person experiencing shoulder pain should not automatically assume that he or she has contracted mesothelioma. Nevertheless, shoulder pain should be taken seriously, and a competent diagnosis should be obtained as soon as possible. If mesothelioma is diagnosed, asbestos is the almost certain culprit. At that point, consulting an attorney experienced in handling claims for damages caused by asbestos can provide a legal evaluation of the case, an estimate of probable success, and the amount of damages that can be recovered.

Source: Surviving Mesothelioma, “Shoulder Pain: An Early Symptom of Mesothelioma,” Alex Strauss, March 3, 2015