What is a Metastatic Tumor (Secondary Tumor)?
A metastatic tumor is a lump in your bone that is produced by cancer elsewhere in your body. It is the more common type of tumor in the spine. Though metastatic tumor can occur anywhere along your spine, most happen in your thoracic (mid-to-upper back) region.
Causes of Metastatic Tumors
Cancer cells that originated and developed in other parts of your body typically reach the bone via the bloodstream or by means of direct extension. The most common cancers that spread to your bone include breast, lung, prostate, colon, renal and thyroid.
Signs and Symptoms
Bone pain that occurs suddenly and does not improve with rest is the typical sign of a metastatic tumor.
Additional symptoms tend to occur several days following the onset of the pain include:
- Pain that gets worse during night or upon waking
- Pain that shoots down your legs and arms
- Weakness or clumsiness in your legs or arms
- Tingling or numbness along your legs or arms
- Shooting pain in lower back and hip (sciatica)
- Aching pain in the bones
- Bowel or bladder problems
These symptoms may be experienced separately or in combination.
What if Metastatic Tumors are Left Untreated?
If untreated, the symptoms can get worse over time and result in:
- Weak or fractured bones
- Compression of nerve endings
Diagnosis of metastatic tumors begins with medical history taking and a physical examination, followed by blood tests and biopsy (examination of tissue).
The diagnosis is further confirmed through imaging tests like:
- CT scan
Treatment of metastatic tumors in your bone normally necessitates a multidisciplinary approach and can be non-surgical or surgical.
Non-surgical options typically include the use of any of the following:
- Analgesics, steroids or corticosteroids
- Medications such as NSAIDs or opioids
- Drugs like RANKL inhibitors and bisphosphonates
- Back braces, radiation therapy and chemotherapy
Surgery for metastatic tumors usually involves either partial or complete removal of the tumor via an open or a minimally invasive procedure.
Potential surgical options are:
- Prophylactic stabilization with an intramedullary rod
- Removal of the tumor and reconstruction with a joint replacement
- Removal of the tumor and reconstruction with bone cement, plates and screws
The exact type of treatment depends upon factors like the location of the tumor in your bone, current cancer treatment and your medical condition.