Metastatic spine tumors make up an estimated 70 percent of all spinal tumors. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, it is estimated that at least 30 percent of patients with cancer will experience a spread of their cancer to the spine.
What are metastatic spinal tumors?
Metastatic, or secondary, spinal tumors result from a cancer that has spread to the spine from other parts of the body, such as the breast, lung, prostate or other areas.
Who develops metastatic spinal tumors?
Both men and women can develop metastatic spinal tumors. Men who have lung cancer are more likely to have their cancer metastasize (spread) to the spine; among women, the most common cancer to spread to the spine is breast cancer.
What are the symptoms of metastatic spinal tumors?
Metastatic spinal tumors grow quickly, and back pain (often in the middle or lower back) is usually the most common symptom. As the tumor grows, it may compress on the spinal cord, the nerve roots, blood vessels or the bones of the spine, causing increasing pain. Other symptoms vary based on their type and location and may include:
Muscle weakness, muscle spasms or loss of muscle function
Abnormal sensations or loss of sensation in the extremities (legs, arms)
Loss of bladder or bowel function
How are metastatic spinal tumors diagnosed?
After performing a thorough medical examination to evaluate the patient’s back pain or other symptoms, the healthcare provider may order imaging tests to confirm and pinpoint the location of the spinal tumor. Tests include X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT). A tissue sample taken from the tumor (during a procedure called a biopsy) will then be examined to determine whether the tumor is benign or malignant, as well as the tumor’s stage.
How are metastatic spinal tumors treated?
Treatment goals for metastatic spinal tumors are to restore or preserve neurological function, stabilize the spine and alleviate pain. Depending on the type of tumor, chemotherapy and radiation may be an option; surgery is an option for tumors that are resistant to chemo or radiation.
Blumenthal Cancer Center offers comprehensive care for metastatic spinal tumors through its Neuro-Oncology Center. For more information or to make an appointment, please call 201-634-5585.