What is a Pancoast tumor?

On Behalf of | Dec 29, 2022 | lung cancer

Not all lung cancer is the same. The part of the lung where a tumor develops can have an effect on the symptoms as well as determine the necessary treatment. 

Occasionally (in up to 5% of lung cancers), a tumor will develop in the upper area of a lung. If it’s higher than the first rib, it’s known as a Pancoast tumor. The radiologist who first differentiated this type of tumor in the early 20th century had the unfortunate distinction of having it named after him. It’s also sometimes called a superior sulcus tumor because of its location.

Because of its location, a Pancoast tumor can have symptoms not normally associated with lung cancer. It can cause upper back, shoulder and neck pain, for example, if it’s pressing on the spine or brachial plexus, which is a network of nerves. It can even affect the arm and hand. If it’s allowed to grow, it can block blood vessels and potentially affect mobility.

Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are critical

These tumors can be diagnosed through various types of imaging. Obviously, the sooner a Pancoast tumor is diagnosed, the better the prognosis generally is for a patient. While traditional cancer treatments like surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are often used, specialized professionals like thoracic surgeons and neurosurgeons may be required because of the areas affected by the tumor. 

Like other types of tumors in the lung, Pancoast tumors can be the result of smoking as well as inhaling asbestos and other harmful fibers, chemicals and gases. If you or a loved one is dealing with a Pancoast tumor – or any kind of cancer – that you believe was caused by exposure to asbestos, it’s wise to seek legal guidance. By holding the appropriate parties accountable, you can help get the compensation you need for your medical care and other expenses and damages.