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C2 Verterbrae Fracture due to Metastatic Breast Cancer - question on full cervical occipital fusion

Started by HealingMiracle on 02/18/2019 4:32pm

My challenging situation is a fracture in the c2 vertebrae due to metastatic breast cancer (as of now confined only to bones and completely untreated - also unbiopsied). I am out of hospital for approximately 2 weeks (was in for almost four weeks and was discharged against my wishes for unfortunate reasons not worth explaining here but suffice it to say I did wish to be treated). I am at home with a cervical collar (hard) and walker. I have no limp weakness or other compromising neuro side effects, although do have pain and am on painkillers. Pain and my strength are both improved signficantly.

My understanding is that my situation is quite tenuous and urgent due to the fact that the spinal cord is being pressed and the c2 is inflitrated by cancer - and all from the neck down is contingent on this vertebrae. So I've been advised to act as quickly as possible with surgery.

The surgery being recommended by 99.999 percent of the neurosurgeons with whom I've been able to speak has been a full occipital cervical fusion. Unfortunately, this leaves me almost unable to move my head. I found two surgeons (one in Calif which is not that doable for me - Dr. Mike Chen at City of Hope - and one in NYC - Dr. Chris Mandigo at Columbia) who would consider to do a c1-c3 fusion which Mike Chen says would be the difference of 40% more head mobility but Dr. Mandigo says would not be that significant if done. Both also say full cervical is still a better and safer choice, yet both seem willing to try the more risky one if I wish.

For various reasons, I am not sure if Mandigo would be my choice, so I am seeking still another surgeon in the NYC area who might be willing to do the "more risky" c1-c3 posterior fusion option (Mandigo says he would also do some wiring - also he said he'd use two screws, where Chen mentioned possibly using four). I am still considering Mandigo. I'm also though concerned that I should only be considering the full cervical fusion....and I realize I do not have lots of time to get to action on this.

It would mean the world to me if anyone could offer any words of wisdom concerning my situation and choice on this matter. There is probably so much I do not yet know or understand.

Has anyone had a full occipital cervical fusion or the posterior c1 to c3 fusion that I mention - anyone with cancer?

I am convinced I will be in that small percent of decades long metastatic cancer survivors - I have no doubt in fact - so I am planning for a long future - therefore my quality of life is paramount. By the way, I am 51 years old.

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1 Response


I broke C1 and tore all of the ligaments, injury called occipital cervical dislocation. I am fused from skull to C4. I cannot turn my head or look up or down. I can still drive, I just have to use my mirrors and turn my whole body to check blind spots. I don’t know what advice to give you on what would be best, but I wanted you to know, you can still do majority of everything you can do now. I had my surgery 18 years ago and still in a lot of pain. It hurts just to hold my head up. If I can lay my head back the pain isn’t as bad. I don’t know if you would have the same issue as me. I also get skull pain from where the screws are screwed in. Not sure if this happens to other people. Oh, one more thing, I can’t open my jaw all of the way because of the fusion. I would’ve never thought a fusion would affect that, but it does. At least it did for me. Good luck with whatever decision you make. Just know, even though you’ll be limited, you can still do majority of things you can do now. Just have to learn a new way of doing things. I’m sorry you’re going through this.