Chemotherapy for spinal cancer is a form of treatment that utilizes powerful medications to target and destroy rapidly dividing cancer cells. When used as a systemic approach to cancer treatment, the drugs may be given orally, intravenously or via injection; the medications make their way to various cancer sites by traveling through a patient’s bloodstream. In this way, the chemotherapy drugs can reach, identify and attack cancerous cells that have spread from the spine to areas throughout a patient’s body. Chemo can also be targeted directly to the spine (or another specific area of a patient’s body) through a lumbar puncture or a device placed under the scalp. Depending on a patient’s needs, a physician may recommend chemotherapy in addition to or instead of other treatments for a spinal cord tumor.
For treating spinal cancer, chemotherapy may be used to:
- Shrink a spinal tumor prior to surgery to increase the likelihood of a successful surgical outcome
- Destroy cancer cells that were not visible or accessible to a surgeon during surgery performed to remove a spinal tumor
- Address spinal cancer that has spread to other areas of a patient’s body
- Relieve symptoms caused by a spinal tumor, such as bone pain
- Treat recurrent spinal cancer
The oncologists at Moffitt Cancer Center firmly believe that a patient will have the best chance of a successful outcome when his or her spinal tumor treatment is individualized. At Moffitt, each patient is closely evaluated and monitored by a multispecialty tumor board; these talented professionals work together to determine which chemotherapy drugs are best suited for a patient given the patient’s overall health and the type, location and stage of the spinal tumor. Our tumor board uses leading cancer treatment protocols and practices evidence-based medicine, and every day we are improving outcomes and quality of life for our patients.