What You Need to Know About Metastatic Spinal Tumors
Metastatic spinal tumors are growths that spread to the spine when there is cancer in another part of the body. Common cancers originate in the lungs, breasts, kidneys, and prostate. The tumors are also referred to as spinal metastases.
The tumor is usually found in the vertebrae. Usually, they do not grow in the spinal cord or the covering of the spinal cord (dura).
The development of a metastatic tumor is not uncommon in cancer patients. 30% to 70% of people with cancer may develop a metastatic tumor.
This article will cover what you need to know about metastatic spinal tumors’ symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
What are the Symptoms of a Metastatic Spinal Tumor
Back pain is a common symptom of a spinal tumor, but some people have no symptoms at all. When patients experience pain, it may feel like a deep ache that may radiate to the leg or chest, depending on where the tumor is located. Pain may worsen during activity or at night while trying to fall asleep.
If the nerves become compressed, numbness or weakness may occur, affecting the body’s limbs. In very rare cases, paralysis can even occur. Difficulty walking and loss of bladder and bowel control are also symptoms of a metastatic tumor.
Additionally, some people feel an inability to feel heat, cold, or pain. It may also contribute to a vertebral compression fracture or other changes resulting in a spinal deformity, such as scoliosis.
How is a Metastatic Tumor Diagnosed?
Medical history, including a proper cancer diagnosis, is essential to diagnosing a metastatic tumor. It is important to explain the symptoms you are experiencing and where they occur in the body. It is also important to tell your physician when the pain is at its worst, how long you have been experiencing the symptoms, treatments you have tried at home to control pain, and your history of back pain.
Be aware that testing for a metastatic spinal tumor may include:
- A Blood Test: The sample is taken to look for chemicals (calcium and alkaline phosphatase) found in the blood when bone tissue is broken down from cancer.
- Biopsy: A tissue sample is taken from the tumor to determine the cause. A biopsy may also be used to assess the growth of the tumor and if it is spreading.
- Imaging Tests: Imaging tests can include MRIs, CT scans, and X-Rays. An MRI allows the radiologist to view the spinal cord and nerves around the spine. CT scans can also be helpful to view abnormalities of the bone. X-rays will show if there are issues with spinal stability or alignment changes of the spine. Imaging tests can also help determine where the tumor may have originated in the body.
How is a Metastatic Spinal Tumor Treated?
Treatment focuses on:
- Preserving spinal stability
- Preserving neurological functioning
- Reducing Pain
Usually, treatment of the source of the cancer is the focus, so there must be coordination between providers. It is important to note that spinal tumors that develop in the vertebra weaken the surrounding bone over time, contributing to fractures and other complications.
Physicians focus on pain relief so patients can preserve a quality of life. Maintaining and keeping neurological functioning is a priority, so patients can walk and control their bladder and bowel.
Just as with other cancer treatments, the focus is often on remission and prolonging life. Treatment goals are designed to help patients live the best life possible.
Reducing or removing tumors is an option for some patients. Surgeons attempt to shrink the tumor to relieve the spine, which can help with symptom management.
How to find the Top Spine Surgeons in Palm Beach County?
If you are searching for the best spine doctor in Fort Lauderdale or a spine surgeon in Delray beach, consider Dr. Hepler. He is a leading orthopedic spine surgeon, fellowship-trained in adult and pediatric spinal conditions.
A specialist in spinal reconstruction, he is known for his expertise in treating:
Contact Dr. Hepler’s office today! You don’t have to suffer in pain; it’s time to get the best diagnosis and treatment that Palm Beach County has to offer.
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.