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Not sure if I have cancer but...


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Hi everyone,

I don't have an official diagnosis of any kind at the moment, but I thought this might be a good place to discuss what I'm going through and hopefully find a way to turn my brain off a little bit. I've had a persistent pain in the right side of my back, under my right shoulderblade and on/under my ribs near the middle of my back on the right side, for about 2 years now. About 3-4 months ago, I developed a dry, hacking cough that hasn't produced any mucus or anything in the time that I've had the cough and hasn't improved in that time, either. I have lupus, so for a while, I passed the back pain off as lupus-related, and both my lupus doc and my PCP said it could be costochondritis.

After I started getting a tightness in the front-right part of my chest, I asked my lupus doctor to give me a scrip to get an X-ray or other test done, to rule out any issues. I ended up getting a chest X-ray done last week, which showed that I had mild hyperinflation; I'm supposed to get tested for an alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and follow up with a pulmonologist (which I'm planning to do at the end of September, which was the earliest I could get an appointment). I've been concerned that the pain in my back and then the cough (which now has the added benefit of my being slightly short of breath when walking up stairs or talking at length) might be something more serious, but, after I Googled the alpha-1 antitrypsin test because I wasn't sure what it was, I'm freaking out that there really could be a more serious problem than just chronic bronchitis or my asthma getting worse. I may be overreacting and it may be nothing at all (I hope this is the case), but can anyone tell me if they had a similar experience or if I have anything to worry about? I've never been a smoker and have lupus and mild asthma, which almost never acts up and is controlled by a rescue inhaler when it does (my PCP gave me a steroid inhaler and a 7-day dose of Prednisone about a month ago, neither of which helped at all), so right now, I'm sort of having an anxiety attack.

Apologies for the lengthy post, thanks in advance for any responses.


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Welcome here.  No need to apologize for your post length.  I completely identify with your concern.  I'm sure you've discovered in your research that the symptoms you are describing could be lung cancer.  They could be something else.  The alpha-1 antitrypsin test will rule out emphysema, but emphysema would be an explanation for most of your symptoms, even pain which might result from your coughing.

I'm not a doctor but at this stage, I'll offer this advice.  Only worry about those things you can control, and then only at the time you can control them.  I learned this the hard way by trying to be the ultimate control freak during treatment.  All I did was add emotional burden to what was already a very troubling problem.  Since then, I've learned to mentally put things into a mental box and keep the lid closed until it is time to deal with them.

Your pulmonologist should be able to render a diagnosis for your problems.  A clean chest X-ray is a good sign and I hope you've got a flair up of asthma.  Many of my family live in Pennsylvania, and they are complaining of a truly difficult pollen season.  

Come back and tell us about your pulmonologist consultation, or before if you care to.

Stay the course.


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Hi Tom,

Thanks for the advice. I've been trying to stay off Google and away from anything that could trigger additional anxiety, but at the moment, all my brain is doing is coming up with "what if"s. But I will definitely try to put your suggestions into practice, especially if it'll help to quiet the worry at all. 

Hope you're well.



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The "unknown" and having to wait for answers in awful I'm sure.  I agree to stay away from Google.  There is too much conflicting information out there. I would suggest you make a list of questions and be prepared to ask away when you see your doctor.  Please let us know what happens.  ((hugs))


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  • 1 month later...

Hi Michelle,

Apologies for the slow response. I have my appointment next week with the pulmonologist, I'm nervous but hoping I get some kind of productive result as well. I went to an outpatient facility a couple of weeks ago, in the hopes of at least tempering the cough, but the doctor there told me to go to the ER since the coughing and pain were/are chronic. Needless to say, the ER trip was totally unhelpful - the doctor treated me like a hypochondriac and the angiography he scheduled came back clear for cardiac issues, but no solutions as to the cough and pain. I'll check back in next week after my pulmonologist appointment and let everyone know how it went. 

Hope you and everyone on this are doing OK.


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