Spinal Cord Cancer

Spinal Cord Cancer

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A spinal tumour is a growth that develops within the spinal canal or within the bones of the spine and may or may not be cancerous. Primary spinal cancer develops from cells within the spinal cord or from its surrounding structures (the bones, tissues, fluid or nerves of the spine).

Tumours that affect the bones of the spine (vertebrae) are known as vertebral tumours while those that begin within the spinal cord itself are called spinal cord tumuors. Tumours from other parts of the body can spread (metastasize) to the vertebrae, the supporting network around the spinal cord or in rare cases, the spinal cord itself.

Types of spinal cord tumour

The two main types of tumours that may affect the spinal cord are:

  • Intramedullary tumours which begin in the cells within the spinal cord.
  • Extramedullary tumours which develop within the supporting network of cells around the spinal cord.

Symptoms

  • back pain
  • loss of sensation in arms or legs
  • difficulty walking or standing
  • decreased sensitivity to pain, heat and cold
  • loss of bowel or bladder function
  • muscle weakness
  • Paralysis that may occur in varying degrees

Risk Factors

The known risk factors of spinal cord cancer include:

  • Prior history of cancer
  • Compromised immune system
  • Hereditary disorders
  • Exposures to radiation therapy or industrial chemicals

Diagnosis

A comprehensive spinal cancer treatment plan begins with an accurate diagnosis. The known diagnosis includes:

  • Spinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – MRI uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to produce images of your spine.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) – A diagnostic image created after a computer reads X-rays, a CT/CAT scan can show the shape and size of the spinal canal, its contents and the structures around it.
  • Biopsy – To determine the precise nature of a spinal or vertebral tumour is to examine a small tissue sample (biopsy) under a microscope. The biopsy results will help determine treatment options.

Treatment

Treatments for spinal cancer vary depending on a number of factors, including the type, stage and location of the disease. Common treatments include:

  • Surgery – the goal of spinal cancer surgery depends on several factors, including the location and grade of the tumour, and the symptoms present. When the tumour is limited to one portion of the spinal column, surgery will be performed to remove cancer.
  • Radiotherapy – is used following surgical resection of a tumour, to destroy microscopic tumour cells left behind. It may also be an option for metastatic spinal tumours.
  • Chemotherapy – is to treat the primary and metastatic spinal cancer with an aggressive and creative approach. Our Doctor will select spinal cancer chemotherapy drugs and delivery methods based on individual needs.

At Beacon Hospital’s Brain & Spine Centre, a team of experienced spine specialists and neurosurgeons are on hand to treat conditions including spinal cord tumours, as well as spine and nerve disorders. Microsurgical, minimally invasive and personalized treatment options tailored to individual needs are normally delivered.

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