A spinal tumor is caused a result of a growth that progresses within your spinal canal or the bones present around the spine area. A spinal cord tumor may also be sometimes referred to as an intradural tumor, as this type of tumor begins within the spinal cord which is the covering of the spinal cord.The spinal cord is a part of the central nervous system as it is a bundle of nervous tissues that start from the base of the brain towards the bottom of the back. The spinal cord is surrounded by three protective membranes. A vertebral tumor is a kind of tumor that affects vertebrae, i.e. the bones of the spine. Sometimes the tumors present in the other parts of the body spread or 'metastasize' up to the spinal cord or the to the vertebrae, which can also cause tumor in the spinal cord. Spinal tumors can cause severe problems like extreme pain, damage to nerves causing neurological problems and in some cases, paralysis. A spinal tumor is therefore threatening and should be treated.
There are the main types of intradural tumors:
• Intramedullary tumors are found within spinal cord itself, with the most common types being gliomas, astrocytomas or ependymomas. Sometimes, an intramedullary tumor may also be present as a result of the metastasis from a malignant tumor that may have spread to the spinal cord.
• Extramedullary tumors grow in either around the membrane which surrounds the spinal cord or the nerve roots extending out from the spinal cord. Extramedullary tumors may not begin from within the spinal cord itself; however, they do significantly affect the function of the spinal cord by causing problems like spinal cord compression. The types of extramedullary tumors that interrupt with the function of the spinal cord include meningiomas, neurofibromas, schwannomas and nerve sheath tumors.
There may be different signs and symptoms of spinal cord tumor, depending on the type of growth of the spinal cord tumor. The signs of a spinal cord tumor are:
• Severe pain at the location where the tumor is present
• Consistent back pain, reaching out to other parts of your body
• Lesser sensation to pain, heat and cold
• Loss in function of the bowel and bladder
• Difficulty to walk straight, sometimes causing a fall
• Worse back pain in the night
• Pain in standing straight
• Muscle weakness in different parts of your body
Back pain is the earliest and the most common symptom of spinal cord tumors. This back pain is likely to radiate towards the other parts of your body like hips, legs, feet or arms and may become severe over time, requiring an immediate spinal cord tumor treatment.
The exact reason as to why most spinal tumors develop still hasn't been found yet. Many medical researchers hold the defective genes responsible for the spinal cord tumor. But this is also not clear if these genetic defects are congenital, inherited or develop over time. Sometimes, spinal cord tumors may develop as a result of being exposed to harmful environmental conditions such as exposure to certain chemicals. But in most cases the development of spinal cord tumors is related to inheriting syndromes, such as Neurofibromatosis 2 and von Hippel-Lindau disease.
• Neurofibromatosis 2: In this hereditary disorder, the nerves that are responsible for the hearing function are surround by the benign tumors. Due to the growth of tumors on these nerves, the hearing function of one or both ears may be impaired leading to hear loss. Some people with neurofibromatosis 2 can also be a victim of spinal canal tumors.
• Von Hippel-Lindau Disease: This is a rare but multi-system disorder which is related to blood vessel tumors (hemangioblastomas) in the brain, retina and spinal cord and with other types of tumors in the kidneys or adrenal glands
Once you realize you possess symptoms of spinal cord tumor, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will carry out a physical examination to asses the presence and location of the spinal cord tumor.
To confirm the presence of spinal cord tumor, and to check its exact location and the stage of the cancer, the doctor may carry out the following tests:
• X-ray test to identify the cancer cells and see if they have spread to any other parts other than the spinal cord.
• MRI scan to determine the extent or stage of the cancer
• Biopsy carried out to determine exactly which type of a spinal tumor is present by examining the small tissue sample (biopsy) under a microscope.
• CT scan used rarely but carried out to diagnose the spinal cord tumor using intense beam of radiation.
There are several kinds of Spinal Cord Tumor treatment that are present which are chosen, alone or in
combination. They depend on the type, stage of spinal cord tumor, age, personal preferences and
sensitivity . Here are the most common forms of spinal cord tumor treatment that are either in the form of oral cancer surgery or radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
• Spinal Cord Tumor Surgery: In the Spinal cord tumor surgery, the doctor takes the tumor out of your spine when the surgeon removes the cancer cells surgically through medical instruments. The surgery carries a risk of spinal cord or nerve injury damage. However, now the latest techniques and instruments have enabled the neurosurgeons to get access to the tumors and extract them which are otherwise inaccessible. The high-powered, latest microscopes which are used in microsurgery help the doctors easily distinguish tumor from healthy tissue.
• Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is another common form of spinal cord tumor treatment which is done over several weeks via administration of drugs via several kinds of injections to kill the cancer cells: drugs intravenously (IV), intra-arterially (IA), or via intraperitoneal (IP).
• Targeted Chemotherapy: Unlike traditional chemotherapy, these drugs are used to selectively treat the affected area, thereby causing lesser damage to other parts of the system. Advanced medications can now directly target specific functions in cancer cells.
• Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy is a Spinal cord tumor treatment that is widely used to treat inoperable tumor cells. Radiation Therapy consists of X-rays or even stronger waves like the Ultra-violet (UV) rays. In some cases, chemotherapy is coupled with radiation therapy for a more effective spinal cord cancer treatment.
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