One possible source of spine-related discomfort in children is a tumor, or abnormal growth. For adults, lifestyle factors such as weight, diet, and activity level are often associated with an increased risk of developing spine tumors. However, many of these factors don’t apply to children and teens in the same way. Discussed below are the spine tumor risk factors that tend to be more specific to younger patients.

Conditions that Are Inherited

Inherited conditions can increase the risk of developing a spinal cord tumor. For instance, neurofibromatosis type 1 and type 2 is an inherited disorder that causes tumors to form on nerve tissue. This disorder is associated with many different types of tumor development, including gliomas that begin in supportive cells adjacent to nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord as well as meningiomas that develop within membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Spine tumor development in children may also be related to inherited conditions that include:

• Gorlin syndrome
• Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome
• Turcot syndrome

Children with Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome may also be at increased risk for developing tumors in fluid-filled sacs called cysts, which can develop around the spine. This is also true of children with Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a condition that boosts tumor risk by suppressing the TP53 gene, which normally provides protection against tumor development.

Exposure to Radiation

Once used for many treatments before its health-related risks were fully understood, radiation is now primarily used for X-rays and cancer treatment. For this reason, it’s rare for radiation exposure to contribute to spine tumors in children. Plus, there are several precautions taken when children are exposed to radiation, especially from X-rays. As for possible radiation exposure from electromagnetic fields generated by power lines, cell phones, or other sources, there’s no credible evidence of a link to tumors.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Spinal tumors are classified based on how aggressive they are, with grades 1 and 2 being low-grade tumors and grades 3 and 4 being higher-grade or faster-progressing tumors. Diagnosis usually involves a review of symptoms, a physical examination, and image tests. Bone scans and spinal taps may be done as well. If image tests identify a suspicious growth, a biopsy may be performed.

Treatment for spine tumors in children will depend on the type of tumor, its location, and whether or not it’s cancerous. Treatment may involve surgery to remove the tumor or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Symptoms and signs associated with spine tumors in children and teens include:

• Back pain
• Abnormal spinal narrowing
• Issues with bladder or bowel control
• Muscle weakness that extends to arms and/or legs
• Numbness and tingling sensations in limbs

Back pain in children is rare, which is why it should be reason enough to see a doctor or Los Angeles spine surgeon when it does occur. Even if the source of symptoms ends up not being a spine tumor, it’s best to get an accurate diagnosis so appropriate steps can be taken. If a tumor is found, early detection increases the odds of responding well to treatment.

If you think your child is at risk of having a spinal tumor or another spinal condition, get in touch with The Spine Institute to figure out the best course of treatment. At The Spine Institute, we specialize in a wide array of surgical procedures, such as extreme lateral interbody fusion surgery and coflex back surgery. Los Angeles patients can call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.