How To Treat Metastatic Cancer of The Spine

Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: March 14, 2022

Spine Cancer

The American Cancer Society notes that roughly 25,000 malignant tumors are diagnosed in the brain and spinal cord each year. The majority of these tumors are metastatic, meaning that they originated in a different location and eventually traveled to the brain or spine. As you might imagine, early diagnosis is key for treating metastatic spinal cancer. With that in mind, we wanted to use today’s blog to take a closer look at some of the signs and treatment options of metastatic spinal cancer.

Causes And Symptoms Of Metastatic Spinal Cancer

As we mentioned in the introduction, metastatic cancer begins in one area of the body and travels to other areas. Cancer cells spread through the bloodstream or lymph vessels and then settle in a new area of the body where they form additional tumors. Due to the size or the spinal area, the spine is a common location for tumors to metastasize. Most cases of spinal cancer involve a metastasized cancer from another region, with the most common forms of cancer that moves to the spine being lung cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer, GI tract cancer and breast cancer.

There are three main forms of metastatic spinal tumors, and they are categorized based on the location of the tumor.

  1. Intermedullary – Rare tumors that grow inside the spinal cord.
  2. Intradural-Extramedullary – Tumors that form outside the spinal cord.
  3. Epidural – Tumors that develop inside the spinal column.

Symptoms of metastatic spinal tumors include:

  • Low back pain without obvious cause
  • Inhibited gait
  • Difficulty walking
  • Numbness
  • Paralysis
  • Pins and needles-like sensation
  • Loss of control of bowels or bladder

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you’re dealing with any of the above symptoms or are dealing with unexplained back pain or related symptoms, head to a specialist’s office. Dr. Sinicropi will be able to figure out if a more common issue like a herniated disc or pinched nerve is causing your pain, or if symptoms are being caused by the presence of a tumor. The earlier you begin treatment, the higher the likelihood of treatment success, so don’t put off care if you’re noticing odd symptoms.

During your consultation, your surgeon will ask about your symptoms, review your medical history, conduct a physical exam and then look for the presence of tumors with the help of an imaging test. An MRI is the most common form of imaging test, but other imaging tests, blood samples or a tissue biopsy may be taken.

Once the doctor understands what you’re dealing with, a concentrated treatment plan can begin. Your treatment will vary based on the specifics of your tumor, but oftentimes it will involve treatments like surgical resection, stereotactic radiosurgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Oftentimes spinal metastases cannot be fully cured, but treatment can provide months or even years of remission and an improved quality of life. Your doctor can walk you through the specifics of treatment should you end up with a spinal cancer diagnosis.

Hopefully you’ll never need to worry about treating spinal cancer, but it’s nice to know that you have resources right here in the Twin Cities if you ever did need them. To talk to a specialist more in depth about back pain or spinal cancer, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today at (651) 430-3800.

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