Pancoast Syndrome


Pancoast Syndrome occurs secondary to local compression of brachial plexus and sympathetic chain by superior (pulmonary) sulcus tumors.

Associated tumors are usually non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and interchangeably referred to as Pancoast Tumours.

Syndrome consists of:

  • Shoulder pain: initially localised to shoulder and vertebral border of scapula)
  • Radicular pain C8-T2: Progressive ulna nerve distribution pain and muscular atrophy
  • Horner syndrome: present in 25% of presentations of Superior sulcus tumors. Extension of neoplastic invasion/compression to involve sympathetic chain and stellate ganglion

Example Cases: CXR Case 064CXR Case 069Befuddler 025

Associated Persons

Alternative names

  • Pancoast’s Tumour
  • Superior Sulcus Tumour
  • Pulmonary Sulcus Tumor
  • Pancoast’s disease
  • Tobías’ syndrome


  • Pancoast was not the first to describe the neoplasm or the associated syndrome associated with local invasion. British surgeon Edward Selleck Hare (1812-1838) first described in 1838 Publio Ciuffini described lung apical tumor with local invasion in 1911.
  • Pancoast described three cases in 1924 and in 1932 described the tumor as a “superior pulmonary sulcus tumor“. Pancoast incorrectly described the tumors as ‘arsing from epitheleal rests of the 5th brachial cleft‘.
  • J. W. Tobías correctly surmised the tumor site of origin as bronchopulmonary tissue in his 1932 publication


  • Pancoast HK. Importance of careful roentgen-ray investigation of apical chest tumors. Journal of the American Medical Association, Chicago, 1924, 83: 1407. [JAMA text]
  • Pancoast HK. Superior pulmonary sulcus tumor. Tumor characterised by pain, Horner’s syndrome, destruction of bone and atrophy of hand muscles. Journal of the American Medical Association,1932, 99: 1391-1396. [JAMA text]
  • Hare, ES. Tumor involving certain nerves. London Medical Gazette, 2nd series, 1838/39, 1: 16-18.
  • Tobías, JW. Sindrome ápico-costo-vertebral doloroso por tumor apexiano. Su valor diagnóstico en el cáncer primitivo pulmonare. Revista medica Latino-americana, Buenos Aires, 1932, 17: 1522-1557.
  • The Pancoast Era – University of Pennsylvania [PDF Full text]
  • Arcasoy, SM. Jett, JR. Superior Pulmonary Sulcus Tumors and Pancoast’s Syndrome N Engl J Med 1997; 337:1370-1376 [Full Text] [PMID 9358132]

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Emergency physician MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM with a passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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