Spine Metastatic Disease
Spinal metastatic disease is the most common type of metastatic cancer. According to the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, in Columbus, Ohio, more than 90 percent of spinal tumors are metastatic.
Breast, lung, renal and prostate cancer are the most common primary cancers that metastasize to the spinal area. Most such tumors are located in the center of the back, and treatment plans work toward maintaining a patient’s quality of life.
Only 10 percent of patients experience any symptoms of spine metastases, and bone pain during the night is common. In general, chronic pain is the most common symptom that patients with spinal metastatic disease experience; the pain can start gradually or overwhelm a patient all at once.
Other symptoms include weakness in the limbs, along with tingling or numbness in the arms and legs. Once the spinal tumors cause discomfort to the patient, she should discuss treatment options with her oncologist.
The course of treatment depends on the area of the tumor and it size, the patient’s general health and age and the presenting symptoms. Radiation therapy is the most common treatment for spinal metastases in patients that have no destruction of the vertebra.
Chemotherapy can be used in conjunction with radiation. However, if spinal or compression fractures have occurred, your physician will assess other treatment options. For instance, minimally invasive procedures such as injecting a balloon and inflating it allows for a space to be opened to inject bone cement; this procedure lessens pain and increases mobility.
Approximately 10 percent of patients will need to undergo surgery for spinal metastases. Surgery is indicated when nerve damage or compression of the cord is causing damage and affecting the patient’s ability to walk or causing urinary continence.
According to the American Cancer Society, studies show that surgery along with radiation is been more effective than radiation alone; 84 percent of patients receiving the combined treatment were able to walk again, compared to 57 percent who received only radiation.
The choice of treatment for spinal metastatic disease should help relieve the patient’s symptoms. Radiation therapy has been shown to work within days of the treatment, and surgery can show marked improvement days after it is performed.
Spine metastatic disease has a median survival rate of 10 months. If cord compression has been diagnosed along with the spinal metastases, it is considered a pre-terminal event and survival at this stage of the disease is typically only about three months.
Any form of treatment that the patient and his doctors decide upon should ease the patient’s suffering and help ensure his dignity.