The Difference Between Arthritis & Cancer. 

 March 31, 2022

By  Linda Rook

Elbow Joint


A joint in your body is where two bones are connected, with ligaments and muscles.

Joint pain is a sign of cancer. However, pain in the joints is also caused by other diseases unrelated to cancer, such as arthritis. The pains can be any were in your body in the hand, shoulder, spine, lower back, feet and many other joints and is called arthralgia.

It could affect your lifestyle when you have joint pain and make side effects or other symptoms feel worse.

If you are experiencing any joint pain, it will help if you talk to your health care team. Relief of side effects is a significant part of Cancer treatment, called palliative care.




The pain you could get is the following:

  • Mild or Severe.
  • It lasts a short time of is long-lasting.
  • When you move, it could be sudden or sharp pain.
  • The pain could be constant and does not go away.
  • Or it could affect your everyday activities, from brushing your hair or teeth to doing the washing up.
  • Your joints can also be stiff after staying in one place whilst you sleep or during movement.
  • Swelling could also occur and feels tender if pressed.
  • Also, the joint could be red or warm at the joint.
pain in back

The above could indicate inflammation in the joints, which could be due to infection, autoimmune disease or other causes. Inflammation of the joints is also called arthritis, or its full name is Rheumatoid Arthritis, which covers several diseases, such as gouty arthritis for one.


The following types of cancer can cause joint pain and, therefore, arthritis:
  • Bone Cancer.
  • Lung Cancer.
  • Breast Cancer.
  • Prostrate Cancer.
  • And numerous myeloma is likely to include and spread to the bone and therefore develop into arthritis.
  • Also, Leukaemia.
Title in newspaper CANCER

Cancer treatment can cause joint pain. But often, the pain goes after treatment, or it may occur months or years after treatment has ended.

Some cancer treatments that cause joint pain include:

  • Chemotherapy – Bleomycin, Cladribine and Taxol etc...
  • Aromatase Inhibitors – Anastrozole, Exemestane and Letrozole.
  • Hormonal therapies – Fulvestrant, Faslodex and Soltamox.
  • Other therapies – Ado-Trastuzumab and Lynparza.
  • Immunotherapies - CTLA-4 and PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors.
  • Steroid medications.
  • Other drugs help with the infection during cancer. Such as Filgrastim, Neupogen or Neulasta.

When people have joint pain through cancer, other factors could be joint pain from unrelated cancer like:

Osteoarthritis of the knee
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Lupus.
  • Gout,  yes, gout comes under arthritis.
  • Bursitis and tendinitis.


When you get your appointment with your health care provider, they will evaluate your symptoms also your medical history. Then, they will ask you questions like:

  • They need to know which joint hurts and if it is in more than one joint?
  • When did the joint pain begin?
  • Is the joint pain severe?
  • Are you doing something specifically for your pain to start and stop?
  • What makes the painful joint or joint’s better or worse?
  • Does the pain in your joint affect your everyday tasks?
doctor and patient

When your joints are causing you pain through your cancer treatment, you will be recommended to try different treatments or less often.

You can do some home remedies to help with your joint pain, which is exactly like the home remedies if you have arthritis. These include:

Physio – Your physical therapy can give you a plan to help you restore the function in your joints.

Acupuncture – I tried acupuncture as I have osteoarthritis, but my spine is getting so bad it did not help in the long run; also, it got costly.

Exercise – A study has shown that gently exercises like stretching could reduce joint pain. Exercise is also suitable for keeping your weight down and less stress and strain on your weight-bearing joints. It also strengthens the muscles around the joints.

Heat and cold methods – Heating pad can help with your pains. I have one for my back pain when I lay in bed; it calms the pain. Ice pack helps with inflammation.

Massage:  Don’t go to any massage therapist;    You should go to an experienced person that works with people who have cancer. They will do a gentle therapeutic massage that could ease the joint pain. These therapists can also give your carer some soft, simple massage techniques to do at home.


Research has been done on people having rheumatoid arthritis or RA and related inflammatory diseases.

Some research looked into the question ‘is there a common relation to the inflammation medication, especially biologics, to blame for a high risk of cancer.’

But evidence shows that chronic inflammation is the main link between rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.

There are many links between RA and cancer; Lung Cancer and skin cancer are just two.

There is an increased risk for any severe diseases; if it is small or large needs to be carefully decided to take any medication. It is also important to remember to control RA as it damages your joints and raises the risk of heart disease and other threatening conditions.

shoulder pain



1.Rheumatoid arthritis and the risk of cancer

When you have RA, you could be at a high risk of certain cancers because of the medication for the inflammation.

A Texas Southwestern Medical School study showed that this risk is very low.

2.Lung Cancer.

Rheumatoid arthritis is linked with lung cancer because smoking could increase the probability of developing RA in the beginning.

However, research has found that non-smokers who have RA can have a small high risk of lung cancer.

People with RA and lung disease must avoid methotrexate because it could worsen lung damage.

3.Skin cancer.

The most dangerous type of skin cancer is melanoma. The high-risk people are those that take TNF inhibitors, maybe because these inhibitors suppress the immune system.

But saying that, a study found that people that have RA that takes TNF inhibitors have double the risk of getting melanoma than RA people who do not. The actual risk is low; about thirty-two out of fourteen thousand RA patients developed melanoma.


Myeloma is a moderately rare form of cancer. Myeloma attacks the white blood cells that are called plasma cells.

Research in 2008 showed that seventeen per cent of people with RA had a higher risk of getting myeloma.

They also found that people with RA for a long time could produce excess antibody-related protein in their blood, called hyperglobulinemia. Over time this could develop into multiple myeloma or the abnormal production of plasma cells.

But other studies showed that multiple myeloma could cause RA.


A study has shown higher rates of leukaemia among men with RA. Also, the study found no significant increase in women with RA.

6.Breast and colorectal cancer.

This one seems to have a lower risk of breast and colorectal cancer when you also have RA than those without RA.

The research was done in 2008 that analysed that people with RA had a sixteen per cent and twenty-three per cent lower chance of developing either breast or colorectal cancer.

7.Prostate Cancer.

When you have a drug called NSAIDs long-term and develop prostate cancer, it may reduce the risk of death in males with RA.

A study found that in 2008 in America, a twelve per cent reduced risk of death for men with RA than those without. In addition, men hospitalised for RA for six + times were more likely to have NSAIDs; therefore, they had a lower rate.

Stop smoking sign


You are at a higher risk of lymphoma and lung cancer when you have RA. Therefore, it would help if you went for the recommended breast, cervical, colorectal, lungs, and prostate screening. It may also be beneficial to be monitored for skin cancer.

The drug DMARDs is unclear if it increases cancer risk in people with RA, though you are at a high risk of skin cancer, especially the drug TNF. But if you haven’t had cancer for the past five years, it may be safe to take DMARDs, but not TNF.

When you have RA and undergo cancer treatment, you should be carefully watched for adverse outcomes, like drug infection or interactions.

Providers should work with patients with both RA and cancer in sharing decision-making, such as considering the type of cancer they have and at what stage they are in the prognosis, life expectancy, and the value of the patient to determine the best treatment start on.

I hope this article has helped you. Please subscribe to my website, and I will keep you updated on new blogs. Also, if you need to know anything about arthritis, please go to my contact page and leave a message, and I will get back to you.

In the meantime, if this post is informative, I’d be very grateful if you’d help your friends or family if they have a similar condition to tell them. So please share it on Twitter or Facebook or send them an email.

I am not a medical professional, and this blog is for information only. If you have any worries you should consult your doctor.

I hope this blog has helped.

Linda Rook

Linda is now retired and has suffered from Osteoarthritis for about 40+ years.  She struggled with her weight until she found the correct one that also helped with her arthritic pain.  Linda was in terrible pain until the physician thought her right hip needed replacement. 

Now Linda has an artificial right hip, which has left her with the left leg shorter than the right.  Therefore, her spine is now wonky, and has arthritis of the lower back, also it seems to be going all over the body, her pain is now in the knees, elbow, wrist, fingers and both hips.

Linda now spends her days writing information to help others with the same conditions, so they do not suffer like Linda.

related posts:

Natural Ways To Decrease Inflammation.

What Supplements Are Good For Arthritis?

Coping With Pregnancy and Chronic Illness.

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