A spinal tumor is a growth of unwanted cells that develops within the spinal canal or within the bones of spine. A spinal cord tumor, also called an Intradural tumor is a spinal tumor that begins within the spinal cord or the covering of the spinal cord (dura). A tumor that affects the bones of the spine (vertebrae) is called a vertebral tumor. Spinal tumors requires complex and dedicated surgery.
Spinal cord tumors may be classified as one of three different types depending on where they occur relative to the protective membranes of the spinal cord.
Following are the main types of Intradural tumors:
Vertebral Column Tumors:
These tumors involve the bones of the vertebral column. The majority of vertebral column tumors are metastatic. That is, the original, or primary, tumor developed in another organ and has spread to the vertebral column, usually through the bloodstream. The most common metastatic spinal tumors in women are from the breast and lung. In men, metastatic spinal tumors are most often from the prostate and lung.
Tumors arising from vertebral bone and cartilage cells also occur in the spine, although less frequently. Examples of these primary spinal column tumors include osteoid osteoma, osteoblastoma, and giant cell tumor, which are benign, and osteogenic sarcoma, chordoma, chondrosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma, which are malignant bone tumors.
This tumors are located inside the dura but outside the substance of spinal cord. Meningiomas and nerve sheath tumors comprise the majority of this subset of spinal tumors. Meningiomas arises from the dura mater, the thin membrane that surrounds the spinal fluid and spinal cord. This type of tumors are commonly found in middle aged and older women. These tumors are usually benign.
Nerve sheath tumors are arise from the nerve roots of the spinal cord. They are also benign tumors. These tumors are large and affects many nerves, hence it becomes very difficult to remove completely.
This tumors grow from inside the spinal cord or inside the individual nerve. Intramedullary tumors arise from the cells which provide support and insulation for nervous system. These tumors occurs mostly in cervical spine ( neck ). They can be benign. The surgery for intramedullary tumors is difficult.
The most common types of intramedullary tumors are Astrocytomas and ependymomas.
Symptoms of Spinal Tumors:
Spinal cord tumors show different sign and symptoms as per the growth of the tumors. The tumors can affect spinal cord or the nerve roots, blood vessels or bones of spine.
-Pain at the site of the tumor due to tumor growth
-Back pain, often radiating to other parts of body
-Feeling less sensitive to pain, heat and cold
-Loss of bowel or bladder function
-Difficulty walking, sometimes leading to falls
-Back pain that’s worse at night
-Loss of sensation or muscle weakness, especially in arms or legs
-Muscle weakness , which may be mild or severe, in different parts of body
Back pain is a most common early symptom of spinal tumors. Pain may also spread beyond back to hips, legs, feet or arms and also worsen over time — even with treatment. Hence it is always advisable to start treatment as soon as possible.
Causes of Spinal Tumors:
–Leukemia: Leukemia is the Blood or Bone marrow cancer. It involves the abnormal production of blood cells in the spine. It is called Spinal Tumors.
–Lymphoma: This is most commonly found in people whose age is in between 15-35 and 50-70. Infection due to Epstein barr virus causes lymphoma. The persons suffering from lymphoma get affected to spinal tumors.
–Myeloma: This is one of the type of cancer which starts in the plasma cells of bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft and spongy tissue which founds in bone. Hence any patient suffering from myeloma is a patient of spinal tumor.
Tests for Spinal Tumors:
–Myelogram: It is done by the radiologist. It is the combination of CT scan and X-rays to find abnormalities in the spinal canal including spinal cord, nerve roots and other tissues.
–Spinal CT: This test is useful to scan lower spine and surrounding tissue.
–Spine X-rays: It is the X-ray of vertebrae. The vertebrae is separated by the flat pads of cartilage that act as a shock absorber.
-Cerebrospinal Fluid Examination: This test is used to measure number of white and red blood cells in the CSF. Fluid goes in the space surrounding the spinal cord and brain.
Treatments for Spinal Tumors:
–Radiotherapy: This treatment if used for the patients with malignant tumors. Radiation goes to the involved segment in the spinal cord as well as to the uninvolved segment.
–Chemotherapy: This treatment is used if the tumor again comes after the radiotherapy.
–Steroids: They do not have huge effect on the tumor but steroids help to decrease the inflammatory reaction around the tumor. Hence helping to reduce the mass of tumor.
–Surgery: If above treatments are failed, then the final option is only to perform the surgery on spinal tumors. Surgery on spinal tumor removes the tumor completely. This surgery is usually perform only if the tumor is in the outer part of the spinal cords.