What is the Connection Between Back Pain and Cancer?

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  • Written By: Sarah Sullins
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 25 February 2020
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Back pain is sometimes a sign of spine or ovarian cancer. This type of pain is persistent and progressive, meaning that it does not go away and gets worse as time goes on. Although rare, back pain and cancer can be related, and a doctor will usually order multiple tests if this is thought to be a possibility.

Most pain that is felt in the back is associated with common injuries. These will typically respond to treatment, such as anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. People who have injured backs generally feel better after a little rest and relaxation. On the contrary, if back pain and cancer are present, these treatments will not help.

Tumors that are located in or around the spine can cause many problems for a patient. He will most likely experience back pain that is severe, persistent, and may radiate. This means that the pain may spread to other areas, such as the legs and around the stomach. Cancer of the spine often mimics other diseases and injuries, making diagnosis all the more difficult.

A person may also experience weakness in the extremities because of back pain and cancer. This may be caused by a tumor pinching the nerves in the back. Fractures can also occur due to such growths. If pressure is being placed on the spine by a tumor, neurological symptoms may also be seen.


Cancer may metastasize, which means it can spread to other parts of the body. For this reason, if back pain and cancer are present, most doctors will check the lungs, abdomen, and breasts for signs of the disease. A physician may also check the thyroid and prostate. A neurological exam will generally be done as well, to see if the patient exhibits any problems with reflexes, because this could indicate pinching of the spinal cord nerves.

Due to the way cancer spreads in patients, chemotherapy or radiation are often needed. These treatments can target the entire body. If it is possible to remove the offending tumor with surgery, that may be done as well. Quick identification often plays a key role in getting rid of the cancer before it has a chance to metastasize.

Back pain and cancer does not always have to be related to the spine. In women, it may be associated with ovarian cancer. Lower back pain is a common complaint among women who suffer from this type of reproductive cancer.



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