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Spinal metastases are tumors that have spread to the spine from cancer that originated elsewhere in the body. They are also referred to as secondary or metastatic spinal tumors. Most often, spinal metastases can result from many cancers, but commonly develop from melanoma, prostate, breast, lung or kidney cancers.

Cancer can travel to the spine through the bloodstream and form tumors in the vertebrae, or the bones that make up the spine. Less commonly, metastatic spinal tumors may occur in the spinal cord or its protective coat (dura).

What are the signs of spinal metastases?

Spinal metastases can trigger a wide range of symptoms depending on the affected portion of the spine and what spinal nerves are affected. In some cases, metastatic spinal tumors may not have any noticeable signs. When symptoms do occur, they may involve:

  • Deep, aching neck or back pain
  • Shooting pain in one or both arms or legs
  • Pain with movement or pressure on the neck or back
  • Neurological symptoms, including muscle weakness, loss of coordination, numbness, tingling sensations and loss of bowel or bladder function

What are the treatment options for spinal metastases?

Patients with only one or a few small metastatic spinal tumors generally have the greatest choices in treatment options. For instance, a treatment plan may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to attack cancer cells, as well as surgery to safely remove as much of the cancer as possible. Clinical treatment is often paired with supportive care to help relieve uncomfortable symptoms of spinal cancer or its treatment.

The spinal cancer experts at Moffitt Cancer Center take a progressive approach to spinal metastases that merges our philosophy of minimally invasive procedures for less pain and faster healing with leading-edge therapies such as space-age carbon fiber materials computer-navigated surgical procedures and innovative clinical trials. As the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida, Moffitt is leading the charge in improving outcomes and quality of life for patients with metastatic spinal tumors.

Medically reviewed by Nam Tran, MD, PhD, Neurosurgeon, Department of Neuro-Oncology. 

To consult with a Moffitt neurosurgeon or neuro-oncologist regarding treatment options for spinal metastases, contact us at 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online. Virtual Visits appointments are also available.