While spine tumours are relatively rare (only one person in 100,000 develops a spine tumour each year), if you have one, the impact can be life-altering. When it comes to spine tumours whether they are cancerous or noncancerous, found on vertebrae or the spinal cord, back pain is the most common red flag.
A spinal tumour is a growth that develops within your spinal canal or within the bones of your spine. Spinal tumours can be benign (non-cancerous) ormalignant (cancerous). Primary tumours are generally formed in the spine or spinal cord, and metastatic or secondary tumours result from cancer spreading from other site to the spine. Spinal tumours are often named according to the region of the spine in which they occur. These areas are mainly cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacrum. They can also be classified by their location in the spine into three major groups: intradural-extramedullary, intramedullary and extradural.
Intradural-extramedullary–Thesetumours usually develop in the spinal cords arachnoid membrane (meningiomas), in the nerve roots that spread out from the spinal cord or at the base of the spinal cord. Although meningiomas are often benign, they can be difficult to remove and have a tendency to recur. Nerve root tumours are also generally benign, although neurofibromas may become malignant over time.
Intramedullary: These tumours grow inside the spinal cord, most frequently occurring in the cervical (neck) region.Astrocytomas and ependymomas are the two most common types of tumours here. They are often benign, but can be difficult to remove. Intramedullary lipomas are rare congenital tumours most commonly located in the thoracic spinal cord.
Extradural: These lesions relate to metastatic cancer or schwannomas derived from the cells covering the nerve roots. An extradural tumour extends through the intervertebral foramina, lying partially within and outside of the spinal canal.
Symptoms of a Spinal tumour: –
Abnormal sensations, loss of sensation : –
- Especially in the legs (may be in the knee or ankle, with or without shooting pain down the leg) may worsen
Back pain : –
- Gets worse over time
- In any area middle or low back are most common
- Is usually severe and not relieved by pain medication
- Is worse when lying down
- Is worse with strain, cough, sneeze
- May extend to the hip, leg, or feet (or arms), or all extremities
- May stay in the spine
Early diagnosis is key
Cancerous and noncancerous spine tumours that push against spinal nerves can be painful, debilitating and many a times even life-threatening. They can lead to loss of movement and sensation below the location of the tumour, and affect bladder and bowel function as well. If undiagnosed and left untreated, nerve damage can be permanent.
Diagnosis of Spinal Tumours
Diagnosis of spinal tumours begins with:
- Checking the history and physical examination of patients
- Plain X-Rays
- Spinal Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- CT Scan
- Biopsy- to determine whether the tumour is benign or malignant
Treatment of Spinal Tumours
Non-Surgical Treatment of Spinal Tumours
Surgery and radiation therapy may cause inflammation inside the spinal cord, thus doctors sometimes prescribe corticosteroids to reduce swelling either following surgery or during treatment.
Surgical Treatment of Spinal Tumours
Surgical options for the treated of spine tumours vary from complete to partial removal. Surgery may be necessary as a result of instability caused by tumour itself or the surgery to remove it. This surgery may be done from the front or back of spine. It may involve going through the neck, chest or abdomen. Newer techniques and instruments allowsareas that were once inaccessible. The high powered microscopes used in microsurgery for instance make it easier to distinguish tumours from healthy tissue. The typical hospital stays after surgery to remove a spinal tumours range from approximately 5 to 10days
This therapy is used following an operation to eliminate the remnant of tumours that can’t be completely removed or to treat inoperable tumours.