Information for the public

Treatments

If metastatic spinal cord compression is diagnosed, treatment should start as quickly as possible (ideally within 24 hours of being admitted to hospital).

When working out the most appropriate treatment for you, your healthcare team should take into account your own preferences as well as your general level of health and fitness for treatment, any previous treatments you have had, and the exact location and stage of your cancer.

Your healthcare professional should discuss your treatment options with you and you should be involved in all decisions about your treatment and care.

Treatments for metastatic spinal cord compression

These are the treatment options that are recommended in the NICE guideline, some of which may be appropriate for you. They may be offered to you in different combinations.

Analgesics: medicines that help to relieve the pain.

Bisphosphonates: medicines that help to relieve the pain and protect the bones in your spine.

Corticosteroids: medicines that help to reduce swelling and relieve the pressure of the cancer on your spinal cord.

Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty: injections of a special bone cement into the spine to help ease pain and strengthen the spine.

Radiotherapy: radiation treatment directed at the spine to destroy cancer cells and relieve the pressure on your spinal cord.

Surgery: an operation to help relieve the pressure on your spinal cord and strengthen your spine.

Questions about treatment

  • Please tell me why you have decided to offer me this treatment.

  • Could you tell me about this treatment and the benefits and risks it might have?

  • Please tell me what the treatment will involve.

Keeping your spine stable

Your healthcare team may ask you to lie flat to try to reduce the movement of your spine and protect your spinal cord. Once your healthcare professional is sure that your spine and spinal cord are not at risk from movement, you should be monitored when you first start to sit up to make sure your spine and spinal cord remain safe. When you are able to sit up safely on your own, you should be offered support to help you move around.