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Cancer Keys

Finger Clubbing and Lung Cancer

Published: 26th July 2022

21st February 2019

Finger clubbing, also known as digital clubbing or Hippocratic fingers, is a phrase used to describe specific changes to the shape of the fingers and fingernails. It can be a sign of various diseases, including lung cancer.

How to recognise finger clubbing

Finger clubbing occurs in stages. Firstly, the nail bed becomes soft with the skin next to the nail bed becoming shiny. Next, the nails begin to curve more than normal when looked at from the side; this is called Scarmouth’s sign. Lastly, the ends of the fingers may become larger, giving them a drumstick or club-like appearance.

GatewayC’s ‘Lung Cancer – Early Diagnosis’ course supports clinicians in the early diagnosis of lung cancer. It explores a number of symptoms indicative of a potential lung cancer diagnosis, including how to check for finger clubbing in a patient and the next steps to take for patients presenting with the condition.

Image source can be found at the end of the post

What does Cancer Research say about finger clubbing?

Finger clubbing happens in more than 3 out of 10 people (35%) with non-small cell lung cancer but only about 4 out of 100 people (4%) with small cell lung cancer.

Clubbing is thought to be caused by fluid collecting in the soft tissues at the ends of the fingers. This is caused by more blood flowing to the area than usual. But we don’t fully understand why this happens.

It may be due to the tumour producing particular chemicals or hormones (this is called a paraneoplastic syndrome).

Cancer Key:

Whilst finger clubbing can sometimes be linked to other conditions, NICE NG12 guidelines advise GPs to consider an urgent chest X-ray to assess for lung cancer and mesothelioma in people aged 40 and over with finger clubbing.

Access GatewayC’s ‘Lung Cancer – Early Diagnosis’ course here

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*Information from Cancer Research UK – Finger clubbing. See link here.

*Image source: Desherinka / WIkimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

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