Spinal metastases are cancers that originate elsewhere and spread to the spine. “Everyone who has cancer is at risk,” says Jenkins. “Ten percent of patients with cancer eventually develop spread to the spine.” With 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with cancer each year, that means 150,000 of them may also develop a spinal tumor.
“Lung, breast and prostate cancers are all tumors that are common, and therefore are common causes of spread to the spine,” says Jenkins. “Any cancer can spread to other parts of the body.” tumors that originate in the spine have a different prognosis, and doctors often try to remove the whole cancer in hopes of a cure. “Whereas metastatic cancers tend to be incurable but significantly manageable,” says Jenkins. “the question is, ‘How can we manage [patients’] disease to give them the longest quality of life?’ ”
As for risk factors: “Things that predispose you to having a cancer in the first place — like smoking, hepatitis, exposure to carcinogens, infection and environmental factors — also predispose you to having a metastatic tumor,” says Jenkins. Age can also be a factor, because the longer you live, the more likely you are to have some kind of cancer.