One of the causes of shoulder pain can be a malignant tumor or a benign tumor that is growing in the shoulder blade or the humerus bone.
This can lead to a humerus fracture, which would be considered a pathological fracture to distinguish it from a trauma related fracture. Benign bone cysts are not uncommon. Benign myxomas can also be found in the shoulder area.
Unfortunately, malignant tumors are also not uncommon. Osteosarcoma is one of the common malignant tumors. It often presents in a child or teenager. Clinically this type of tumor likes to grow in the arm or in the lower extremity. A malignant fibrous histiocytoma (thanks to www.ajronline.org for the link) that originated in the shoulder blade (=scapula) is shown here.
Other cancers can metastasize into the shoulder such as kidney cancer, breast cancer as well as prostate cancer. Not infrequently they tend to metastasize into the humerus bone and the shoulder blade. About 18% of breast cancer patients develop humerus metastases (Ref. 5). Here is an example of a liver cancer (thanks to www.geocities.jp/nekoone2000v for the link) having metastasized into the shoulder. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma can also metastasize into the humerus.
Usually there is pain in a shoulder with a metastasis or a primary bone tumor in the humerus or scapula. X-rays, CT, MRI scans, or bone scans might suggest a tumor. However, only tissue diagnosis such as a bone biopsy under CT guidance with histopathological analysis of the material will confirm the diagnosis. An orthopedic surgeon and likely an oncologist need to be consulted to help with the proper work-up and the appropriate treatment protocol including possible bone surgery.
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6. Wheeless’ Textbook of Orthopaedics: http://www.wheelessonline.com/ Several topics can be found under this link by entering the term you search for.
7. Suzanne Somers: “Breakthrough” Eight Steps to Wellness– Life-altering Secrets from Today’s Cutting-edge Doctors”, Crown Publishers, 2008