When Back Pain Requires Immediate Care
A condition called malignant spinal cord compression may develop in some people who have lung cancer that spreads to the spine. These symptoms include worsening back pain, weakness in the legs, and sometimes loss of urinary or bowel control. This is a medical emergency, and immediate treatment is needed to prevent complications such as paralysis.
Feeling A Mysterious Lump
Later in March, I rolled over in bed and felt something on my side. Am I lying on my cell phone? I thought to myself. I reached over to grab what I thought was my phone digging into me and instead felt a really hard mass on my side.
I was sleeping at my parents house that day. I called out to my mom, who is a nurse. Im probably overthinking this, I said, but can you see what you think? She felt the lump and looked concerned. I underwent a breast reduction in 2008, so areas in my breast did feel hard because of normal scar tissue. Yet this didnt feel like scar tissue. My mom thought I was too young for breast cancer and that it was probably nothing, but she suggested I get it checked.
I live in the small town of Bellefontaine, Ohio, and the nurse practitioner in town was able to quickly schedule me for a mammogram that following Mondayso I didn’t have to cancel the 30th birthday trip to Nashville I’d planned. After the initial mammogram, I kept getting called back in to be re-scanned. Then I found out I needed a biopsy. A week later, I was told I had breast cancer.
The news was devastating I remember feeling like everything was a blur. The nurse asked me if I wanted her to continue giving me more information, and I had to tell her I needed a break and a moment to breathe. My mom was with me, and I cried with her. I said I wanted to keep my diagnosis a secret, because I didn’t want people in my life to look at me and just see cancer.
When Is Back Pain A Sign Of Something Serious
People may have back pain for various reasons, such as high stress levels, their menstrual cycles, or insufficient physical activity. As such, experiencing mild or occasional back pain should not be a concern.
If strategies for relieving back pain dont help, or if your lower back pain is making it difficult to do everyday tasks, the pain might be a warning sign of something more serious. Specifically, if your pain comes and goes, worsens, or lasts longer than two weeks, it could indicate ovarian cancer, so a visit to your doctors office may be in order.
- Loss of appetite or difficulty eating
- Frequent urination or increased urge to urinate
- Changes to your menstrual cycle
- Pain during sex
It is important to speak with a health care provider if your back pain is frequent, gets worse, or does not improve with over-the-counter pain relievers, or if you have new or unusual symptoms that concern you. If your doctor suspects an ovarian cancer diagnosis, they will likely recommend tests to rule out other conditions or diseases. These tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Gastrointestinal tests such as a colonoscopy
- CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound
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Diagnosing Cause Of Back Pain
Living with back pain can be very difficult. Walking can be hard, sleeping might be disrupted, exercise can be painful, and your work can be affected by back pain.
To diagnose the cause of your back pain you will need to see a healthcare provider.
The most common causes of back pain are:
- Muscle sprain/strain
Is My Lower Back Pain Cancer
While back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek care from a primary healthcare provider, it is very rarely a sign of cancer. Back pain is usually caused by injury, overuse, or spinal problems, such as disc degeneration, arthritis, or stenosis.
Though the likelihood that back pain is a sign of cancer is rare, there are some types of cancer that can cause back pain as an early symptom.
Primary cancers that develop in the spine can present with back pain as the first symptom. Other types of cancer can cause back pain or metastasize to the spine and cause pain.
Even though most back pain isn’t caused by cancer, it is still important to be able to recognize the symptoms that might point to cancer.
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What Tests Will Doctors Order To Rule Out Cancer
If your doctor is worried about the signs and symptoms that you have, they have tests that can start the process of ruling out a serious illness like cancer.
Keep in mind that ruling out something worrying is a very good thing, but doesnt necessarily diagnose whats causing pain.
A blood test can reveal if there is anything unusual happening in your body. Some results might be abnormal, but have nothing to do with cancer. Other abnormal results might indicate cancer, but need to be confirmed through further testing.
You might be understandably worried throughout the process, especially if you have a history of cancer, so make sure you ask your doctor to clarify any confusing results for you.
Youre also likely to get your spine imaged. X-rays are good for looking at things like calcium-containing masses or tumors, or damage to bone that might be caused by cancerous growth weakening it. MRIs are better for seeing more detail in soft tissues than x-rays. They can reveal tumors in or around the spinal column or in the bone itself.
If you dont have abnormal blood markers, the imaging tests are negative and you are cleared by your doctor, your back pain is very likely not due to a serious underlying illness like cancer.
At this stage, you might say thats great that I dont have cancer, but this pain still really sucks and makes me miserable, what now? The best thing you can do is educate yourself about back pain and what you can do about it.
Could My Pain Be Cancer Possibly Spread
Hi I have recently been diagnosed with cervical cancer cells and are awaiting my biopsy results I have had continuous severe abnormal Cells plus hpv on and off for 10 years also had 3 loops done. My last three smears have been done jun 2020, jan 2021 and jan 2022 plus 1 loop was done July 2020 after sever results only my last smear jan 2022 shown hpv, severe abnormal plus cancerous cells so I biopsy was taken. But I’ve had constant lower back pain for a long while but it’s gotten worse past 6 months also get an achy sometimes stabbing pain inside lady parts could it possible mean the cancer stage is further on?
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Is Back Pain Associated With Colon Cancer
Pain in the lower back can be a symptom of colon cancer as colon cancer causes lower back pain. The pain associated with colon cancer happens in the cancer site and radiates to the lower back. Back pain can happen due to multiple reasons, so lower back pain doesn’t always mean colon cancer. However, if the pain persists after physiotherapy, exercises, or anti-inflammatory medicines, the doctor may recommend image testing and diagnosis to identify potential cancer markers.
Whats New In This Article
Fourteen updates have been logged for this article since publication . All PainScience.com updates are logged to show a long term commitment to quality, accuracy, and currency. moreWhens the last time you read a blog post and found a list of many changes made to that page since publication? Like good footnotes, this sets PainScience.com apart from other health websites and blogs. Although footnotes are more useful, the update logs are important. They are fine print, but more meaningful than most of the comments that most Internet pages waste pixels on. I log any change to articles that might be of interest to a keen reader. Complete update logging of all noteworthy improvements to all articles started in 2016. Prior to that, I only logged major updates for the most popular and controversial articles.See the Whats New? page for updates to all recent site updates.
2020 Minor science update, added a citation to a cancer case study.
2020 Added information about back pain as a symptom of COVID-19.
2018 Cited Premkumar et al on red flag reliability .
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Chris Advice For Other Women
You take each day as it comes and live day-to-day. If you feel like staying in bed all day, stay in bed, you dont have to do 50 million things a day, your body has been through a lot and chemo takes its toll so be kind to yourself and rest when needed. Remember everyone reacts differently to chemotherapy, you do what you can do.
When you have cancer, you do start to lose yourself. Sometimes you just need to focus on one thing that makes you feel better. Putting my lipstick on was something I could point to and say, Theres a little bit of me. It brightens your face up. Throughout treatment I kept my normality with continuing to work part time and managing the household.
Looking back on my diagnosis and treatment it was hard and an emotional roller coaster of doubt, fear, anger and resentment. I found speaking to a psychologist who specialised in womens cancers gave me the tools to handle my emotions. She also gave me some coping methods I have passed on to others.
I also learnt to meditate together with practising mindfulness, which calmed me especially through chemotherapy and still practice both. The greatest gift I gave myself was coming to terms with the fact that I am not the same woman that I once was and to be content with my life and be kind to myself. I also found it very cathartic to write poems during my cancer journey that helped me express what I was feeling at the time.
Words: Brendan WongInterview: Emily Ditchburn
What You Need To Know About Cancer And Back Pain
Back pain caused by cancer is rare, but it does happen and it must not be missed in your medical care.
Only 1% of people that seek help for back pain have any serious medical condition but the seriousness of the condition is something that cannot be ignored.
People with a previous cancer diagnosis should be more vigilant, as it is not unusual to experience back pain when the cancer returns. Thus, if you have a history of cancer, and you have developed back pain, you should get a medical check without delay. This is especially true when pain seems to be almost always present, is severe or is progressively getting worse and is not improved by periods of rest. You may also notice that it gets worse at night, interfering with your sleep.
Back pain from more benign causes will tend to be associated with specific movements or postures, or actions such as sneezing or coughing. Itll usually get better in 4-6 weeks.
Its important to recognize that even with a history of cancer, most of the time back pain will be just back pain, and not due to something more serious. However, if you have a history of cancer, its better to play it safe and get it checked out, especially if the back pain has the characteristics mentioned above.
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Treatment Of Colon Cancer
The treatment of colon cancer depends on the stage, a particular situation, and cancer location. The treatment of colon cancer generally involves the removal of cancer cells by colon cancer surgery. Here is the treatment for colon cancer:-
Surgery for colon cancer in early stage
- Removing polyps- If the cancer is localized or small, which is contained in the polyp at a very early stage, the doctor can remove the polyp with polypectomy during colonoscopy.
- Minimally invasive surgery- In this treatment, if the polyp is not removed during colonoscopy, then your doctor laparoscopic surgery. In this colon cancer surgery, a minimal incision is done in the abdominal wall by the surgeon.
Treatment for advanced stages
‘you’re Dying Of Breast Cancer And There’s No Cure’
There’s no oncologist in my county, so I went to Columbus for a second opinion from doctors at Ohio State University. While I was there, I told them about my back pain. That prompted them to do a CT scan, which showed the cancer had possibly gone to my spine. I needed another biopsy to confirm this, and within a week I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I went from hearing, Youre too young to have breast cancer to Youre dying of breast cancer and theres no cure.
When I learned that the terrible pain in my back was due to metastatic cancer in my spine , I first wanted to hug my oncologist. Not because I was excited to have cancer, but because someone finally gave me an answer that explained why my back had hurt so much, confirming that it wasn’t all in my head.
But then, as this information sank in, finding out that it was cancer felt like I was getting punched in the stomach. All I could think was, How long has this been going on? I thought back to the rheumatologist I had seen just a couple of weeks before, who told me I was “fine” and to only come back if the pain got worse.
I then discovered something chilling. A note had been left in my medical records by one of the doctors I had seen for the back pain. It mentioned that “suspicious lesions” were found on my spine and hip bone after a scan I had a year earlier. No one ever followed up or told me about this.
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The Tricky One: Cancer As A Cause Of Low Back Pain And The Necessity Of Testing Just In Case When The Symptoms Justify It
Sorry I have to use the C word I know its kind of a bummer. But C happens.
A few cancers in their early stages can be hard to tell apart from ordinary back pain a bone cancer in the vertebrae, for instance and these create a frustrating diagnostic problem. They are too rare for doctors to inflict cancer testing on every low back pain patient just in case. And yet the possibility cannot be dismissed, either! This is an unsolveable problem.
Most cancers and ominous problems will inevitably start to cause other, distinctive, ominous symptoms, and it wont be long before someone catches on that theres more going on than just back pain. So it truly is an extraordinary circumstance for back pain to be ominous without causing other symptoms that raise the alarm.
For example, in 2017, the New England Journal of Medicine reported on a creepy case of slowly growing neurological deficit caused by a very stealthy cancer, which took a lot of diagnostic effort to solve.25shudder So sneaky cancers happen but they are crazy rare.
This is an unholy combination of factors: the exact same symptoms can have either an extremely rare but serious cause, or an extremely common but harmless cause that can be greatly aggravated by excessive alarm!
My favourite epitaph: I told you I was sick!
Getting Treatment For Terminal Cancer
My cancer was estrogen-receptor positive, so I initially went on tamoxifen, a type of hormone therapy that can slow tumor growth in some breast cancers. Meanwhile, my body was put into medication-induced menopause to make me a candidate for future hormone therapy and chemotherapy treatments. I was on many different medications to stop my cancer from progressing, and for about two years it worked. Then it progressed.
To try to get it under control, I endured different palliative surgeries and radiation, but these left me with more side effects. The tissue around my left breast where my tumor is became rock-hard and very painful. Radiation burns in my stomach prevent me from tolerating much fiber.
Ive also experienced severe pain, as the cancer has since spread to my bones. At first I would transition back and forth between a wheelchair, walker, and on one occasion, a cane. Currently, with the correct pain medications, I rarely have to use a cane or chair, and I even walked 22 miles around Disney World last Februarysomething I would have said was impossible a year prior.
Now, I have scans every three months to check for progressions, and I go to my oncologist every month to do blood work. If I ever have any extra pain or other symptoms, sometimes my scans are moved up to double-check everything. I try to resist living in three-month increments I’ve actually planned a trip to Europe soon.
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The Pain Is Searing Through Your Chest Too
Numbness or weakness in your arms can be one sign of a strokeor it may also be an indication of a tear in the wall of the aorta, the largest blood vessel in your body that runs in the back of your chest, says Dr. Tien. She adds that youre especially at risk if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure over a long period of time. This can cause a tearing mid-chest and/or back pain, she describes. Just like a stroke, this is an emergency that requires immediate medical care.