Cancer and Spinal Fractures
Bone Metastasis and Multiple Myeloma
Spinal compression fractures can be caused by many things. Osteoporosis is the most common cause, but you can also develop a spinal fracture if you have certain types of cancer. Bone metastasis and multiple myeloma are two forms of cancer that can cause spinal compression fractures.
There are imaging tests, such as x-ray, CT scan, and MRI, that will show if the cancer has spread to the bones. Your doctor may also order blood tests, needle biopsies, and surgical bone biopsies to confirm bone metastasis. These bone biopsies are often carried out at the same time as vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty.
Below you can read about how each of these cancers weakens your spinal bones, leaving them vulnerable to fractures.
Bone metastasis is cancer that spreads to your bones from another site (most commonly from the breasts, lungs, and prostate). Approximately 17-50% of patients with breast cancer and bone metastasis will experience new spinal fractures each year.1 And up to 41% of patients undergoing radiation for bone metastasis will have fractures2.
These cancer cells produce two kinds of lesions, and the type of lesion associated with fractures is known as an osteolytic lesion. This type of lesion causes your bones to weaken and lose density, making them prone to fractures.
Bone pain is typically the earliest symptom, but some patients may not realize they have bone metastasis until they develop a fracture.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of your plasma cells, which are white blood cells that live in your bone marrow. White blood cells are part of your body’s immune system. As with bone metastasis, multiple myeloma wears away at your bones’ mass.
Spinal bone pain is a commonly reported symptom of multiple myeloma patients—new spinal fractures occur in as many as 30% of patients with multiple myeloma each year, and approximately 75% of multiple myeloma patients report bone pain in their back at the time of their cancer diagnosis. Of those patients, more than half actually have a spinal fracture1.
As with any surgery, there are potential risks. Although balloon kyphoplasty is designed to minimize these risks as much as possible, there is a chance that complications could occur. Serious adverse events can occur including: myocardial infarction (heart attack), cerebrovascular accident (stroke), pulmonary embolism (cement leakage that migrates to the lungs), cardiac arrest (heart stops beating), paralysis or muscle weakness, death. Patients should consult with their doctor for a full discussion of risks.
To learn about Dr. Highsmith’s practice, click here.