Spinal Metastasis

What causes spinal metastasis?

Certain types of cancers are more likely to spread to the spine. The most common types of cancers to form spinal metastases are primary cancers affecting the lung, breast, bowel and prostate.

What are the symptoms of spinal metastasis?

Although some people do not experience any symptoms with spinal metastases, most people with this condition will experience symptoms; which may include some or all of the following:

  • Pain in the spinal region, particularly at night
  • Pain, weakness, numbness or tingling into the legs or arms
  • Problems with bladder or bowel control
  • Pain is sometimes worsened by coughing or sneezing

What is the treatment for spinal metastasis?

Patient receiving x-ray results

If you have been diagnosed with spinal metastasis, your doctor will first thoroughly investigate your condition to determine the best course of treatment. You will most likely be referred for a number of scans, usually including an MRI scan. Treatment decisions will be made in consultation with yourself, your oncologist, your neurosurgeon and other members of your management team.

Your doctor may prescribe medication for pain. Steroid treatment is also often prescribed and is effective in many cases in relieving bone pain. Physical therapy and bracing can also offer symptomatic relief in some cases.


For some people, radiotherapy will be advised. The type of primary cancer you have may determine whether radiotherapy is appropriate for your condition. Radiotherapy can be effective in some cases in shrinking the tumor and providing pain relief.

For a group of people, surgery will be recommended. This treatment may sometimes occur in conjunction with radiotherapy. Your surgeon will try to remove as much of the tumor as possible and relieve any pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves. Sometimes implants are used to help stabilize the spine. With recent advances in spinal surgery techniques, surgery is now sometimes carried out earlier and is suitable for more candidates than in the past. This is due to new minimally invasive techniques. Surgery for this condition takes many forms and your surgeon will discuss in detail with you the technique that is recommended for you. Spinal surgery for this condition may help to reduce pain and to improve mobility.