About 10,000 Americans develop primary or metastatic spinal tumors every year. Although spinal tumors can affect anyone, they are most common in young and middle-aged adults.
Spine tumors are abnormal growths of tissue found in and around the spine. Once your spinal tumor symptoms are diagnosed, you will work with your doctor and treatment team to learn more about your treatment options. Your treatment will depend on how aggressive your tumors are and where in your spine they are located.
Spinal Tumor Symptoms
Some spine tumors originate in the spinal column (primary) while others are offshoots of cancerous tumors in another site (metastatic). If your tumors are the result of cancer, you may experience other primary symptoms not caused by the tumors themselves.
Spinal tumor symptoms will also vary depending on their location. Intramedullary tumors originate in the cells of the spinal cord itself and often present fewer symptoms. Extramedullary tumors grow outside of the spinal cord, which can compress the area and cause any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent neck or back pain
- Numbness or tingling in the arms and legs
- Problems walking
- Difficulty maintaining balance
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Severe headaches
Spinal cord tumors can cause neurological damage and lead to permanent disability if not treated promptly. Your doctor or spine surgeon will help you develop a customized treatment plan.
Monitoring – Most spinal cord tumors are non-cancerous. Regular monitoring may be all that is needed if your tumors are benign and discovered before they cause any symptoms. If you do start to exhibit symptoms like pain, numbness, or loss of mobility, call your doctor immediately.
Chemotherapy – Chemo is traditionally used to combat cancer, and can be effective in treating spinal cord tumors that metastasized from other sites.
Radiation Therapy – Targeting your spinal cord tumors with radiation can help eliminate them. It is also an excellent choice for tumors that are compressing the spinal cord, but are not within the cord itself because targeted radiation can eliminate the tumors without damaging the surrounding tissue.
If your tumors are malignant or aggressive, you may require surgery to remove them before they can cause permanent damage. There are several surgical approaches available, including some minimally invasive spine surgery options. Fortunately, once removed, spinal tumors generally do not recur, according to researchers at the Spinal Cord Tumor Association.
Once the tumor is removed, the pathology department will review it. In the meantime, your incision will be closed to prevent leakage and infection. After your surgery, you will stay in the hospital for several days so your surgeon can closely monitor your recovery.
Upon your release from the hospital, you will be given a rehabilitation or PT program to help strengthen your supporting back muscles. It is important that you follow these—and all instructions given to you by your spine surgeon—to the letter to ensure your complete recovery.
If you want to learn more about your treatment options for your spinal cord tumor, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital at 877.918.7020 to schedule an appointment with one of our renowned spine surgeons.
*Picture By Blausen Medical Communications, Inc. (Donated via OTRS) CC 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons