This prospective study evaluated the usefulness of myelography in breast cancer patients who present with radiculopathy or myelopathy. A total of 124 consecutive myelograms were performed in 100 patients. Epidural metastasis (EM) was diagnosed in 67 myelograms (54%). Multiple epidural metastases were diagnosed in 15 (22%) of those, resulting in a total of 87 epidural lesions. A complete block was found in 13 EM (15%) and an incomplete block in 14 EM (16%). Clinical data could not predict the site of EM in 29 cases (33%). Fifteen asymptomatic EM were detected in myelograms with multiple EM. Plain radiographs were of no value in determining the site of EM in 29 cases (33%), including 13 cases (15%) without vertebral metastasis at the site of EM. Treatment consisted of radiotherapy (RT) with or without systemic treatment in 52 cases (80%), systemic treatment alone in 11 cases (17%) and surgery in two patients (3%). Clinical improvement was noticed in 72%, no change in 13%, and deterioration in 15%. No difference in response was noticed between RT and systemic therapy. Before treatment 21% and after treatment 15% of the patients could not walk. The one year survival was 42%. The ambulatory status at presentation was the most important prognostic factor. Examination of the spinal fluid, obtained at myelography, disclosed meningeal carcinomatosis in 9% of the patients. Imaging of the whole spinal canal with cytological examination of the spinal fluid is recommended in breast cancer patients suspected of epidural tumour with features of radiculopathy or myelopathy, irrespective of further clinical data and plain spinal radiographs.
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