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Spine Metastases

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Last updated June 11, 2022

Spine metastases quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your spine metastases.

Spine metastases quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your spine metastases.

Take spine metastases quiz

What is a spine metastasis?

Metastasis means the spread of cancer cells from tumors in other parts of the body. Bone metastases occur when tumor cells migrate from the original tumor site and cause a secondary tumor in the bones. The spine is a common location for new tumors, or metastases, to form.

Some types of cancers, especially those of the breast, prostate, lung, thyroid, and kidney, are more likely to spread to the spine.

Symptoms

  • Back pain
  • Bowel and urinary incontinence
  • Arm or leg weakness
  • Hypercalcemia (high levels of calcium in the blood).
  • Hypercalcemia can cause nausea and vomiting, constipation, and mental confusion.
  • Metastasized tumors can cause pain and fractures in the spine.

Treatment

Diagnosis is made through various types of imaging, including X-ray, bone scintigraphy (bone scan,) CT scan, PET scan, or MRI.

Treatment is varied and is designed for each individual. It may include osteoporosis medications to strengthen bones, chemotherapy to fight cancer cells, and steroids to reduce inflammation. All of these help to reduce pain, as well. Radiation therapy and surgery may also be used.

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Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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