Woman dies 25 days after arriving at hospital with shoulder pain

A 76-year-old woman from New Jersey, United States, was diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer after seeking medical attention for shoulder pain. The patient, whose name was not identified by doctors at St. Michael Medical Center Newark of New Jersey, passed away just 25 days later.

In an article published in the Cureus Journal of Medical Science on Sept. 2, the doctors who attended said that the woman was a former smoker – she had smoked a pack of cigarettes a day before deciding to quit – and had no no typical symptoms of lung cancer, such as a persistent cough, shortness of breath, or changes in vital signs.

She complained of pain in her left shoulder, forearm and elbow a few weeks before seeking medical help. A few days later, pain was also felt in the right shoulder.

A CT scan revealed that the patient had an advanced stage adenocarcinoma: the cancer had already spread from the lung to the spine, ribs and adrenal gland (a region above the kidneys).

Adenocarcinoma is an aggressive type of cancer, difficult to remove by surgery and with rapid growth, which arises in glandular tissues. It represents about 30% of all lung cancer cases and can also develop in other organs such as the stomach, intestine, uterus, pancreas, breasts or prostate, for example.

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Although the New Jersey patient complained of shoulder pain, the cancer had not spread to the region. The pain may have been a reflection of one of the spinal injuries. She was treated at the hospital with steroids and radiation, but the metastases progressed quickly and she died days after arriving at the hospital. Doctors call attention to the importance of annual check-ups, especially for people with risk factors for cancer.

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