What Is the Prognosis for Spinal Bone Cancer?

Patients with spinal bone cancer have a median survival rate of 10 months, according to the Annals of Oncology journal. Once a patient experiences cord compression, the life expectancy is reduced to three months. Although researchers are investigating techniques to improve the quality of life for people with spinal metastases, many patients complain of intense pain, vertebrae collapse, decreasing mobility, and paralysis of bowel and bladder functions.

The primary complaint of patients with spinal bone cancer is pain, which is categorized into three types: chronic localized pain, axial pain and radicular pain, states the Annals of Oncology. Growing tumors can cause bones to stretch, resulting in localized pain and the compression of nerve roots. This compression progresses into radicular pain, a pain that expands into the lower extremity along the spinal nerve root. Radiotherapy is usually the course of treatment in an attempt to shrink the size of the tumor.

Of all patients diagnosed with spinal metastases, approximately 50 percent experience sensory and motor dysfunction, explains the Annals of Oncology. The same number complain of bladder and bowel debilitation. Cord compression is an initial symptom for approximately 5 to 10 percent of people with spinal bone cancer. Of these, half continue to have mobility, while 15 percent are paraplegic. Inadequate pain relief may result in a lack of mobility. When a patient is unable to move, there is an increased risk of depression, secondary respiratory problems, venous thromboembolism and bed sores.