Neuro and Spine Surgeries
Brain AneurysmWhat is Brain Aneurysm?Read more...
Brain SurgeryWhat is Brain Surgery?Read more...
Brain TumorWhat is Brain Tumor?Read more...
CraniosynostosisWhat is Craniosynostosis?Read more...
Carotid Artery DiseaseWhat is Carotid Artery Disease?Read more...
Carpel Tunnel SyndromeWhat is Carpel Tunnel Syndrome?Read more...
EpilepsyWhat is Epilepsy?Read more...
HydrocephalusWhat is Hydrocephalus?Read more...
Herniated DiscWhat is Herniated Disc?Read more...
HeadacheWhat is Headache?Read more...
Lumbar Spinal StenosisWhat is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?Read more...
Parkinson DiseaseWhat is Parkinson Disease?Read more...
StrokeWhat is Stroke?Read more...
Spina BifidaWhat is Spina Bifida?Read more...
Spinal Cord InjuryWhat is Spinal Cord Injury?Read more...
Spinal FusionWhat is Spinal Fusion?Read more...
Spinal LaminectomyWhat is Spinal Laminectomy?Read more...
Spinal TumorWhat is Spinal Tumor?Read more...
What is Spinal Tumor?
A spinal tumor is an abnormal mass of tissue within or surrounding the spinal cord and spinal column. These cells grow and multiply uncontrollably, seemingly unchecked by the mechanisms that control normal cells. Spinal tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Primary tumors originate in the spine or spinal cord, and metastatic or secondary tumors result from cancer spreading from another site to the spine.
Spinal tumors may be referred to by the area of the spine in which they occur. These basic areas are cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacrum. Additionally, they also are classified by their location in the spine - anterior (front) and posterior (back).
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Types of Spinal Tumors
There are three common types of spinal tumors that can cause back pain: vertebral column tumors, intradural-extramedullary tumors, and intramedullary tumors.
Vertebral Column Tumors
Primary tumors - these tumors occur in the vertebral column, and grow either from the bone or disc elements of the spine. They typically occur in younger adults. Osteogenic sarcoma (osteosarcoma) is the most common malignant bone tumor. Most primary spinal tumors are quite rare and usually grow slowly.
Metastatic tumors - most often, spinal tumors metastasize (spread) from cancer in another area of the body. These tumors usually produce pain that does not get better with rest, may be worse at night, and is often accompanied by other signs of serious illness (such as weight loss, fever/chills/shakes, nausea or vomiting).
Intradural-Extramedullary (inside the dura) tumors grow within the spinal canal (under the membrane that covers the spinal cord) but outside of the nerves. Usually these tumors are benign and slow growing. However, they can cause symptoms of pain and weakness. Most of these spinal tumors are -
Intramedullary Tumors - Intramedullary tumors grow from inside the spinal cord or inside the individual nerves and often arise from the cells that provide physical support and insulation for the nervous system (glial cells). These tumors occur most often in the cervical spine (neck). They tend to be benign, but surgery to remove the tumor may be difficult.
Symptoms of Spinal Tumors
The symptoms of spinal cancer depend on several factors, including the tumor type, size, location and extent, as well as age, health history and more. Some common spinal cancer symptoms include pain, numbness, weakness and difficulty with urination. The symptoms of spinal cancer may occur very slowly. Other times, they occur quickly, even over a matter of hours or days. Metastatic spinal tumors, which have spread to the spine from another location in the body, often progress quickly.
The most noticeable sign of spinal cancer is pain. Pain can come from the tumor’s presence in the spinal column, pushing on sensitive nerve endings or causing spinal instability. When the spine is not lined up properly, other physically notable symptoms may result (e.g., changes in posture, Kyphosis or hunchback).
When the tumor presses on the spinal cord, symptoms may begin with numbness or tingling in the arms or legs. Next, there may be clumsiness, not knowing where the feet are, and difficulty with buttons or keys. As the disease progresses, spinal cancer symptoms may grow to include weakness, inability to move the legs and eventually paralysis. Some common signs of spinal tumors may include the following -
Causes of Spinal Tumors
The cause of most primary spinal tumors is unknown. Some of them may be attributed to exposure to cancer-causing agents. Spinal cord lymphomas, which are cancers that affect lymphocytes (a type of immune cell), are more common in people with compromised immune systems. There appears to be a higher incidence of spinal tumors in particular families, so there is most likely a genetic component. In a small number of cases, primary tumors may result from presence of these two genetic diseases:
Neurofibromatosis 2 - in this hereditary disorder, benign tumors may develop in the arachnoid layer of the spinal cord or in the supporting glial cells. However, the more common tumors associated with this disorder affect the nerves related to hearing and can inevitably lead to loss of hearing in one or both ears.
Von Hippel-Lindau disease - this rare, multi-system disorder is associated with benign blood vessel tumors (hemangioblastomas) in the brain, retina and spinal cord, and with other types of tumors in the kidneys or adrenal glands.
Diagnosis of Spinal Tumors
A neurological examination may help pinpoint the location of the tumor. The health care provider may also find the following during an exam -
These tests may confirm spinal tumor -
Treatment of Spinal Tumors
The goal of treatment is to reduce or prevent nerve damage from pressure on (compression of) the spinal cord. Treatment should given quickly. The faster symptoms develop, the sooner treatment is needed to prevent permanent injury. Any new or unexplained back pain in a patient with cancer should be taken seriously. Treatments include -
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