A spinal tumor is the unusual growth of cells inside or around the spinal column. This mass of cells usually grows and divides without any control as it is not checked by the mechanisms responsible for controlling normal cells. Spinal tumors can be benign or malignant. While primary tumors start in the spine, metastatic tumors occur because of cancer that spreads from any other site toward the spine.
Depending on the location, spinal tumors are classified into three different kinds:
It’s a tumor that originates in the outer layer of the spinal cord. These are primarily metastatic and come from cancer in another body part.
A tumor originates beneath the outer layer that surrounds the spinal cord. Such tumors grow very slowly and are benign.
These tumors start inside the spinal cord and mainly arise from a cell that offers physical support and protection to the nervous system. These tumors mainly occur in the neck.
Causes of spinal tumor
What exactly causes spinal tumor is still not known. While some of them are attributed to exposure to agents that cause cancer, some defective genes are also responsible. Experts say a bad environment also plays a role in developing spinal tumors. It is common for people who have:
• Neurofibromatosis 2: This is where benign tumors originate on or close to nerves linked to hearing.
• Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome: It is a multi-organ disorder related to blood vessel tumors in the spinal cord, brain and retina.
Common symptoms of spinal tumor
Spinal cord tumor causes various symptoms, specifically when the tumor grows. These tumors impact the nerve roots, spine bones and blood vessels, causing several symptoms.
Some of these include:
- Pain at the tumor site
- Back pain that radiates to other body parts
- Having less sensation to pain, cold and heat
- Find it difficult to walk, which sometimes leads to falls
- Back pain that worsens during night time
- Decrease in sensation and muscle weakness in legs and arms
A proper medical examination emphasizing back pain and neurological deficiency is the initial step for diagnosing a spinal tumor. Some of the tests that your healthcare provider may recommend for accurate diagnosis of spine tumors are:
- CT scan
- Bone scan
A biopsy is required when the diagnosis is unclear and to know whether the tumor is malignant or benign. If the tumor is malignant, the biopsy helps determine the type of cancer, which helps in knowing about various options for treatment.
Treatment of spine tumors
Treatment options often involve multiple things integrating the expertise of spinal surgeons, radiation oncologists, and several medical specialists. Depending on the patient’s overall health and different goals of care, treatment options can be surgical and non-surgical.
These include radiation therapies and chemotherapy, to which some tumors respond well. However, tumors that do not show any symptoms or only mild symptoms are monitored and kept under observation through MRIs. But some of the tumors are radio resistant, in which case surgery is the only option.
It depends on the kind of tumor. Primary spinal tumors are removed through full en-bloc resection; in the case of metastatic tumors, treatment is mainly palliative to restore or preserve neurological function. In cases where surgical resection is possible, preoperative embolization is used for easy resection. With the invention of new methods and instruments, surgeons can now reach tumors which were previously not accessible. Surgery is often followed by radiation therapies or chemotherapy to remove the tumor completely.
Spinal tumors are a serious condition requiring on-time diagnosis and treatment. The location and size of the tumor affect the treatment course. Not only that, but the age and health condition of the patients are also taken into account. So, it’s vital to get accurate medical involvement to get positive treatment outcomes and live a healthy life.