There are several considerations that must be examined to determine the best treatment. If the patient is undergoing treatment for a primary cancer, then the treatment of metastatic spinal tumors should not interfere with the primary treatment, unless a delay in spine tumor treatment may cause serious neurologic damage.

For many metastatic spinal tumor patients, treatment plans focus mainly on preserving and improving the patient’s quality of life. For others, treatment may focus on removal of the tumor.

Metastatic Tumor Treatment Considerations

Treatment of metastatic spinal tumors must take into consideration the following:

  • Type of cancer
  • Number of tumors in the spine
  • Location of tumor(s)
  • Current cancer treatment
  • Life expectancy
  • Patient’s quality of life
  • Patient’s general condition, including comorbidities such as anemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.

Overall, the patient’s personal preferences and considerations regarding his or her primary cancer are important in deciding how to treat the spinal tumor(s).

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Metastatic Spinal Tumor Treatment Goals

The goals of treatment for metastatic spinal tumors are generally:

  • Palliative treatments designed to optimize the patient’s quality of life, and to minimize pain and disability, including:
    • Pain relief
    • Preservation of neurological function
    • Prevention of fracture
    • Correction of spinal instability
    • Improvement of the patient’s general functionality and ability to move/walk
  • Support the patient’s ongoing cancer treatments that are designed to bring the cancer into remission or to prolong the patient’s life
  • Debulk, or shrink, the spine tumor to decrease the tumor burden

In general, earlier diagnosis and treatment of spinal tumor symptoms result in a better outcome. Cancer patients who experience development of new symptoms of back pain and/or limb neurogical symptoms should seek immediate medical care.

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Treatment of metastatic spinal tumors involves a multidisciplinary team that can include specialists such as surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, as well as diagnostic and interventional radiologists, and physiatrists. The goal is that the team will work together, and work closely with the patient, to appropriately manage each patient’s individual case to determine and coordinate treatment options.

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