According to the American Cancer Society, doctors diagnose nearly 25 thousand malignant brain and spinal cord tumors yearly. Most of those tumors are metastatic, meaning cancer started somewhere else in the body but traveled to the brain or spine. 

While metastatic spinal cancer is not overly common, early detection is key to living a long and healthy life. Understanding the signs and symptoms of metastatic cancer of the spine and treatment and pain management options will help prepare you for a diagnosis.  

What is Metastatic Cancer of the Spine?

If cancer is metastatic, cancer originated in one part of the body but spread to another body part. Cancer spreads when cancerous cells travel through the bloodstream or lymph vessels and settle in a new part of the body, where they start to form tumors. The spine is one of the most common sites of metastatic cancer and can invade any part of the spine, from the bones to the spinal cord and nerves. The majority of spinal tumors are metastatic, meaning most spinal tumors don’t start in the spine. Metastatic cancer of the spine is more common in men and tends to develop between 40 and 65. Some common places metastatic cancer originate: the lung, breast, gastrointestinal tract, lymphoma, prostate, and kidney. 

There are three primary types of metastatic spine tumors based on where the tumor grows:

  • Intramedullary- Intramedullary spinal tumors are rare tumors inside the spinal cord, usually around the neck.
  • Intradural-extramedullary- Intradural-extramedullary tumors grow outside the spinal cord. 
  • Epidural- Epidural tumors develop inside the spinal column.

One of the early signs of metastatic cancer of the spine is back pain, typically in the mid or lower back, that seems to have no cause. The pain level can vary depending on the size of the tumor. Additional symptoms can include difficulty walking, numbness, paralysis, tingling, or bowel or bladder control loss. 

Treatment Options for Metastatic Cancer of the Spine

Getting a metastatic cancer diagnosis of the spine can be scary but know there are options to treat cancer and manage any back or neck pain you may experience. In general, those with metastatic cancer of the spine require a biopsy to remove the tumor. One option is a surgical biopsy in which a large portion of the tumor is removed through surgery. Another option is a needle biopsy in which small samples of the tumor are removed through a long hollow needle. 

In addition to removing the tumor, pain management of the back and neck may also be considered. At Mocek Spine Clinic, we’ve recently started working with patients to manage and relieve cancer pain. Cancerous tumors along the spine can cause severe discomfort, making it difficult to move and sometimes even difficult to sit or find comfort in any position. 

If you have metastatic cancer of the spine and are experiencing back or neck pain at any level of severity, the team at Mocek Spine Clinic may be able to help.  We offer advanced spine care solutions through patient-centered care. Our purpose is to provide compassionate care designed to allow you to live your life in the least amount of pain possible. Through our minimally invasive spinal treatments, you’re expected to heal more quickly so you can go back to living your life. 

To learn more, you can make an appointment at our clinic or give us a call at 501.224.4001.