Frequently Asked Questions About Spine Tumors

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Spinal tumors are one of the most painful experiences a person can possibly have. The pain that is felt from this cannot be dealt with rest and pain medication. The pain that is felt is continuous even when a person is resting. When a person goes for treatment, the doctor’s first step in diagnosing the tumor is to evaluate the patient by making them take tests through physical examination. The next step involves an MRI and a CT scan that gives doctors a clearer picture of the patient’s spinal cord and surrounding structures and any abnormalities that are present.

Spinal tumors can be very dangerous as the spine is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. If you put the slightest pressure on the spinal cord, it will not function properly. This is why people who have spinal tumors show significant weakness in their arms and legs. In some cases, a person can lose the use of his/her legs throughout the tumor. Another symptom that manifests itself in a person is an inability to control their bowel or bladder, which can be extremely distressing for that person. Neck and back pain are another symptom of spinal tumor, which at certain extents become numb and unable to feel any sensation.

Spine Tumors- Overview

The majority of patients who undergo spinal tumor surgery do very well; however, there are no surgeries that do not have risks. They can be confident that their doctors have the ability to take care of them. On an over-all level most patients who have their tumors removed go on to live a normal life. Here are some FAQ’s that patients normally have about spinal tumors.

What is a spine tumor?

– A spinal tumor is a malignant or benign growth that forms on the spinal cord or near the spinal cord. Whether cancerous or not, spinal tumors can threaten you life and cause permanent disability.

What are the symptoms of spine tumors?

– Spinal tumors depend on the location of the spinal tumor. When it affects your spinal cord, nerve roots, blood vessels, and bones, the symptoms of spinal tumors can be:

  • Severe back pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of sensation in the arms and legs
  • Difficulty being able to walk
  • Decreased sensitivity to heat and cold
  • Bladder and bowel movement problems
  • Paralysis

What causes spine tumors?

– It is unclear about what causes spinal tumors, however; it is clear which parts of the spine are likely to be affected by the tumor. These parts are:

  • The spinal vertebrae, which is made up of small bones that are stacked up on each other. These bones protect the spinal cord and its nerves.
  • Spinal cord, which is a double-layered column of nerve fibers that communicate with the brain.

What are the types of spine tumors?

– There are three types of spinal tumors:

  • Extradural tumor
  • Intradural-extramedullary tumor
  • Intramedullary tumor

What are the complications that arise from spine tumors?

Both malignant and benign spinal tumors can affect the spinal nerves that can cause a loss of movement and sensation to the arms, legs, bladder, and bowel. Another complication is that nerves can be permanently damaged especially when caught at a later stage.

How do doctors investigate spine tumors?

– Since spinal tumors are uncommon and its symptoms resemble normal back pain, it is easy to overlook a possible spinal tumor. For doctors to investigate tumors properly, the patient must give a complete family history as well as to undergo a series of physical examinations. Other tests include:

  • Spinal magnetic resonance imaging or MRI. This accurately shows the spinal cord and its nerves and produces a clearer picture of the cord and its nerves as well as any abnormalities surrounding the cord.
  • Computerized tomography, which uses a narrow beam of radiation to produce a better picture of the spine.
  • Myelogram, which is a contrast dye that is injected into the spinal column. This dye circulates around the spine, making them easier to view on a CT scan or x-ray.
  • Biopsy, which is to extract a small tissue sample of the patient’s spine to determine whether the tumor is malignant or benign.

What are the treatment options of spine tumors?

– The goal of spinal tumor treatment is to effectively remove the tumor without any complications. The complications deal with permanent nerve damage.

– Doctors must take into account their patient’s: Age, over-all health, type of tumor, and whether it has spread to other parts of the patient’s body.

– Treatment options are:

  • Monitoring- If small tumors are present and they are benign, careful monitoring would be the best solution.
  • Surgery- This is the best treatment for tumors because they are physically removed from the spine. New techniques and more-improved technology allows for surgeons to remove the tumor effectively and completely. Recovery from surgery is expected to take a few weeks with total rest.
  • Radiation therapy- This treatment is utilized after the surgery. This eliminates any remaining remnants of the tumor in the spinal area.
  • Steriotactic radiosurgery- Doctors use this to deliver high dosages of radiation that kills the tumor.
  • Chemotherapy- The standard treatment for all forms of cancer, chemotherapy kills cancer cells and stops them from reforming or growing. Side effects include fatigue, vomiting, hair loss, and increased risk of infection.
  • Drug treatment- Doctors will prescribe drug treatment depending on the patient’s case.

When do I need to see a specialist?

– Since spinal tumors require early diagnosis and treatment, you should immediately visit your doctor when you feel the following:

  • If the pain is unbearable and persistent
  • If the pain becomes significantly worst at night
  • If you have a family history of spinal cancer
  • Progressive weakness in your arms and legs
  • Changes in bowel and bladder movement
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