The Relation Between Back Pain and Cancer
Many things can cause back and spine pain, such as age-related changes, posture, or injury. However, unexplained back or spinal pain that won’t ease even after treatment might signify something more serious.
Cancers that Cause Back Pain
It’s important to note that back pain alone is rarely a sign of cancer (but could be). Back or spinal pain related to cancer usually comes with other symptoms. If you’re experiencing back pain along with symptoms such as changes in your bowel movements, sudden weight loss, or weakness in your arms or legs, talk to your doctor about a cancer screening.
When abnormal cells grow on or around the spinal cord, it forms a cancerous spinal tumor. The cause of abnormal growth is still unknown. Still, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, spinal cancer is relatively rare, with only 1 in 140 men and 1 in 180 women developing cancer in their lifetime. Your chances of developing spinal cancer are higher if you have a family history of cancer, a compromised immune system, or a hereditary disorder such as neurofibromatosis. Additional risk factors include those who have exposure to radiation therapy or industrial chemicals.
Back pain is the primary sign of spinal cancer, depending on where the tumor is. Additional symptoms include muscle weakness, numbness in the arms or legs, difficulty walking, a loss of sensation, changes in bowel habits or a complete loss of bowel control, paralysis, or physical changes to the spine.
Colorectal cancer refers to a group of cancers to the bowel, colon, or rectum. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and one of the leading cancer-related deaths. It’s most common in men as they grow older. It’s also common among those who smoke and have a diet low in fiber and high in red or processed meats.
Abdominal and back pain are both common symptoms of colorectal cancer. You may also experience changes in bowel habits, diarrhea, constipation, bloody fecal, fatigue, or unexplained weight loss. Signs of anemia, such as pale skin, irregular heartbeat, chest pains, and headaches, are also signs of colorectal cancer.
Ovarian cancer starts in the ovaries but can spread to the stomach or pelvis if left untreated. There are three types of ovarian cancer depending on where cancer originates; epithelial tumors, stromal tumors, and germ cell tumors. The majority of ovarian cancer is epithelial tumors which are tumors on the layer of tissue that surrounds the outside of the ovaries. A family history of ovarian cancer and age are the most significant risk factors for developing ovarian cancer. It’s also common in those with the inherited gene mutation BRACA1 or BRACA2.
Early stages of ovarian cancer rarely show signs, but you may experience back or abdominal pain. Additional symptoms include weight loss, changes in bowel habits, and frequent urination. Since ovarian cancer symptoms are nonspecific, it’s easy for the condition to go unnoticed.
Lung cancer starts in the lungs. It’s most common in those who smoke (90% of cases), although non-smokers can also develop the disease (10% of cases). Your risk of lung cancer also increases if you have undergone radiation therapy, been exposed to radon gas, or have a family history of lung cancer.
Lung cancer can spread to the spine, causing back pain. Tumors on the lung can also press against the spine, causing discomfort in the lower back. More common signs of lung cancer include persistent coughing, coughing up blood, chest pain, shortness of breath, hoarseness, headache, and unexplained weight loss.
If you’re experiencing pain chronic pain in your back or neck related to cancer, the team at Mocek Spine Clinic may be able to help. We offer advanced spine care solutions through patient-centered care. Our purpose is to provide compassionate care designed to allow you to live your life in the least amount of pain possible. To learn more, you can make an appointment at our clinic or give us a call at 501.224.4001.