Cancer cells in the body can travel through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system and form tumors in other parts of the body. When cancer cells settle into the bone marrow of the vertebrae in your spine and form tumors, it's referred to as metastatic spine cancer.
Cancers near the spine or in other organs—
and the liver—can also grow into and through the spine.
The thoracic spine, highlighted here, is the most common place for metastatic spine cancer.
Metastatic cancer can also develop in the lumbar spine, highlighted here.
It may also form in the cervical areas of the spine, highlighted here, as well.
This image shows the spine cancer in the bone, where it is almost always located. It usually involves more than 1 vertebrae. Rarely, the cancer may also involve the soft tissues of the spine.
A compression fracture may occur if the tumor makes the vertebral bones weak, causing them to break and collapse.
This type of fracture typically causes sudden back pain and pain that is sensitive to the touch over the site of the fracture.
Pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness may radiate through the arms or legs as a result of these fractures, as well as the tumors themselves. This condition is called radiculopathy.
These fractures, as well as the tumors themselves, can compress nerves in and around the spine, causing pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness that can radiate through the arms or legs, called a radiculopathy.
Other symptoms may include loss of bowel or bladder control and paralysis in the area of the body below the tumor, depending on the location and the size of the tumor.
If you have cancer or have a history of cancer, and you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact your physician right away.