Spinal tumors are a various collection of lesions ranging from benign (non-cancerous) tumors treated with surgical resection, to malignant (cancerous) tumors that require multidisciplinary care involving surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. Benign spinal tumors of the spine include neurofibromas, schwannomas, and meningiomas. These tumors mostly occur inside the spinal canal, but outside the spinal cord itself. The spinal tumors are most often treated with surgical resection alone, although the complex cases may also require additional therapy such as radiation or chemotherapy.
A spinal cord tumor does not have any definite signs, it has different signs and symptoms, especially as the tumor grow. The tumors may affect the spinal cord or the nerve roots, blood vessels or bones of the spine. The common symptoms of a spinal cord tumor may include:
Back pain is the most common and early symptom of spinal tumors. This pain may also radiate beyond your back and spread to your hips, legs, feet or arms and may worsen over time — even with treatment.
Before the actual procedure these tests are performed by the doctor to confirm the diagnosis and pinpoint the tumor’s location:
The goal of a spinal tumor treatment is to get rid of the tumor completely, but in some cases this goal may be complicated by the risk of permanent damage to the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. Doctors also must consider your age and overall health to perform this treatment. The type of tumor you have and whether it arises from the structures of the spine or spinal canal or if it has spread to your spine from elsewhere in your body are also considered in determining a treatment plan.
Treatment options for most spinal tumors include:
Monitoring: In some cases spinal tumors are discovered before they cause any symptoms — often when you’re being evaluated for another condition. If small tumors aren’t growing or pressing on surrounding tissues, watching and monitoring them carefully may be all that’s needed. During this observation, your doctor will likely recommend periodic CT or MRI scans at an appropriate interval to monitor the tumor.
Surgery: The surgery for spinal tumors is often the treatment of choice for tumors that can be removed with an acceptable risk of spinal cord or nerve injury damage. New techniques and instruments allow the neurosurgeons to reach tumors that were once considered inaccessible. The high-powered microscopes used in microsurgery now make it easier to distinguish tumor from healthy tissue. But even with the help of latest technological advances in surgery, not all tumors can be totally removed. If the tumor isn’t removed completely, surgery may be followed by other procedures like radiation therapy or chemotherapy or both.
Recovery from spinal surgery may take a few weeks or even longer, depending on the type of procedure. You may also experience a temporary loss of sensation or other complications, including bleeding and damage to nerve tissue after the surgery. You may need to stay in a rehabilitation hospital for a period of time after the surgery. In other cases, physical therapy also takes place at an outpatient facility or at the patient’s home. The total recovery time post the surgery may be as short as three months or as long as one year, depending on the patient’s overall health and the complexity of the surgery.
Surgery of spinal cord is a complex operation, and surgeons are very careful to try to limit any problems either during or after the surgery. Complications during or after surgery may include bleeding, infections, or reactions to anesthesia are rare, but they can also happen. A major concern after surgery may include swelling in the brain. Drugs called corticosteroids are provided before and for several days after surgery to help lessen this risk.