New York Spine Institute Spine Services

Metastatic Cancer of the Spine

Metastatic Cancer of the Spine

Metastatic Cancer of the Spine

By: Angel Macagno, M.D. FAAOS

Dr. Angel Macagno was born and raised in Argentina where, as a board-certified physician, he practiced Orthopedic surgery for 15 years before deciding to fulfill his lifelong goal of practicing medicine in the United States.

Metastatic spinal cancer occurs when cancer from another part of the body spreads to the spine. The formation of a tumor in the spine can cause back pain and inhibit the nervous system’s function. Treatments for metastatic spinal vary with the size, location and type of tumor. In this article, we’ll look deeper at the symptoms, causes and treatments for metastatic spinal tumors. 

What Is a Metastatic Spine Tumor?

A tumor is a formation of abnormal tissue that results from irregular cell growth and division. Metastatic tumors are secondary tumors that have spread from the primary tumor to another part of the body. In the case of a metastatic spine tumor, the tumor has spread to the spine. 

Metastatic tumors form when cancer cells travel through the bloodstream to the spine and enter the bone marrow. The spine’s complex network of veins spreads across numerous vertebrae, meaning cancer cells often flow to numerous parts of the spine. Cells divide within the marrow of the vertebrae, eventually forming a tumor. 

A metastatic spinal tumor can form in any region of the spine. Most occur in the thoracic region consisting of the spine’s 12 middle vertebrae. 

Who Is Most Likely to Develop a Metastatic Tumor?

Metastatic tumors are most likely to form in patients over the age of 50, especially those with a history of cancer. Certain cancers are more likely to result in a metastatic tumor than others. The cancers that result in the most metastatic spinal tumors include: 

  • Breast
  • Lung
  • Prostate
  • Renal
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Thyroid

Metastatic Spine Tumor Warning Signs and Symptoms

Metastatic spinal tumors weaken the bone, which can cause severe pain or instability. The vertebrae may even fracture. Spinal tumors may also compress nearby nerves or the spinal cord. 

The following symptoms indicate that a metastatic spinal tumor may be present, especially in cancer patients: 

  • New back pain that grows slowly or rapidly
  • Worsening of preexisting back pain 
  • Pain in the leg or chest that radiates from the spine
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Muscular weakness or loss of function
  • Numbness around the spine and extremities 

Metastatic Spine Tumor Treatments

Metastatic tumors will continue to grow without proper treatment. Doctors may use one or more of various treatments depending on the patient’s health and life expectancy. Treatments for metastatic spinal tumors seek to relieve pain, preserve nerve function, support other ongoing cancer treatments, or reduce or remove the tumor. Common treatments include:

  • Radiation therapy.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • Immunotherapy.
  • Surgery.
  • Medication for pain or to strengthen the bones.

Contact New York Spine Institute

Metastatic spinal tumors require immediate treatment, so call New York Spine Institute at 1-888-444-6974 to schedule an appointment if you experience symptoms. We have numerous locations in New York. Seek treatment from a nearby office.