Due to the location of most spinal tumors, it’s not unusual to have some type of growth on or near the spine and not be aware of it until nerves are affected. Even when a tumor is benign, it may still be problematic due to its size and position on the spine.
Signs and Symptoms
Spinal tumors may be the type that spread from the original tumor site (extradural) or located on the outside of the spinal cord (intradural extramedullary) or the inside of the spinal cord (intramedullary). Though most tumors on the spine spread slowly, those that travel to other parts of the body tend to progress rapidly. Symptoms can vary, but may include:
- Severe pain in the affected area of the back
- Radiating pain in the legs, hips, buttocks, head, or arms
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- General weakness or fatigue
- Issues with bowel or bladder functions
Diagnosis of spinal cancer is based on medical history, presented symptoms, and the elimination of other possible sources of back, neck, or radiating pain. The presence of a growth is confirmed with image tests. A biopsy is often done to determine if the tumor is cancerous.
Treatment depends on the size, location, and nature of the growth. The goal with treatment is to remove the cancerous growth and any affected tissues while retaining spinal functioning as much as possible. Radiation and chemotherapy are the two main non-surgical options often attempted prior to considering spine surgery.
When surgery is necessary, microsurgery and other procedures involving minimally invasive spinal surgery techniques may be performed for smaller growths. Nerve roots are often tested to determine if the growth needs to be removed (if it’s non-cancerous). Radiation and chemotherapy are often performed again after removal to ensure there are no remaining cancer cells.
Whether benign or malignant, spinal tumors are rare. It’s often difficult to make an initial diagnosis without taking other factors into consideration or conclusive imaging results because symptoms are similar to what’s experienced with other types of back or neck pain. For more information on spinal cancer and how to treat it, reach out to Dr. Hyun Bae at The Spine Institute. We specialize in the spinal fusion alternatives Santa Monica patients claim has helped them lead healthier and happier lives. Give us a call at 310-828-7757 today.