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New Procedures at Fox Chase Cancer Center Offer Immediate Relief For Patients with Painful Spinal Fractures Caused by the Spread of Cancer

PHILADELPHIA (Aug. 25, 2006) - Cancer that has spread, or metastasized, to the spine causes weakening of the bone and results in painful spinal fractures. Until recently, patients with these fractures were left with few treatment options for their debilitating pain and subsequent loss of function. Fox Chase Cancer Center offers balloon kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty, two minimally invasive procedures designed to alleviate pain immediately and prevent future fractures.

"Research shows that up to two-thirds of patients with bone metastases experience severe pain and disability," said . "Traditionally we use radiation to treat these patients. However, radiation may only offer minimal relief, usually requires several treatments and may not offer quick relief from the pain. With vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty, pain relief is usually immediate in most cases.

The procedures are similar with regard to pain relief. However, there is a slight difference in the technique. Both procedures use X-ray image guidance to insert small needles through a tiny nick in the skin into the abnormal vertebral body. Vertebral bodies are the segments of vertebrae that act as a support column to hold up the spine.

During the balloon kyphoplasty procedure, doctors inflate a balloon placed through the needle that lifts the collapsed vertebra. Once the fracture is reduced, the balloon is deflated and bone cement is inserted to fill the pocket of space. The cement forms an internal cast that holds the vertebra in place and prevents future collapse.

The vertebroplasty procedure also uses bone cement, but the existing space is filled without the aid of the balloon. Which type of procedure will be performed is based on several factors.

These procedures not only relieve patients' pain but also improve their mobility and prevent further collapse of the bone. In addition, multiple studies have demonstrated improvement in pulmonary function as well as overall improvement in quality of life.

Generally, the kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty procedures are done on an outpatient basis. Both are relatively safe and take about 25 minutes to perform.

"After either procedure, patients notice an immediate increase in comfort and pain release," concluded Leschak.

A similar type of procedure can also be used for metastasis-related fractures in other parts of the body such as the hips.

For more information about kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty, please call 1-888-FOX CHASE.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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