Intermedullary tumors are a subgroup of tumors that develop within the structure of the spinal cord. Considered rare, tumors of this nature account for 2 to 4 percent of all tumors that affect the central nervous system. The good news is most intermedullary tumors, which usually originate from supporting cells, are benign (non-cancerous). Specific treatments recommended will depend on factors that include whether or not the tumor is cancerous, how fast it’s growing, its size and location, whether or not adjacent nerves are affected, and a patient’s overall health. Here are a few of the most common options for treatment.
In some instances, an intermedullary tumor is discovered when image tests are done to look for other spinal conditions like a herniated disc or a fracture. If the tumor is not causing significant discomfort or showing signs of growth, the only treatment initially recommended may be regular monitoring with image and blood tests. However, additional treatment efforts will be necessary if symptoms become problematic or if the tumor significantly expands.
Certain types of intermedullary tumors are well differentiated from surrounding tissues, which can make removal easier. Others blend in with nearby tissues and cells and may present challenges for some Beverly Hills spine surgeons. Even so, modern surgical techniques have reduced risks associated with tumor removal. For instance, neurophysiological monitoring techniques such as motor evoked potentials (MEPs) are usually done as the surgery is performed to make sure the spinal cord is functioning properly. Slower growing intermedullary tumors that are difficult to take out may only be partially removed. However, partial removal can still significantly ease symptoms.
If it’s not possible to surgically remove a tumor, radiation therapy may be performed to treat affected tissues with high-energy beams. Radiation may also be used when a tumor was only partially removed. It may also be an option if there is concern that nearby spinal tissues may be affected following surgery. As is the case with chemo, radiation therapy is often combined with other treatment efforts.
Administered orally or intravenously, chemotherapy is rarely recommended for intermedullary tumors. One possible exception is if cancer has spread (metastasized) to the spinal cord from another area.
It usually takes about a month to fully recover from surgery performed to remove an intermedullary tumor. If less invasive techniques are used, this period may be shorter. To fully restore the strength of spine-supporting muscles and the flexibility of the area of the spine where the tumor was located, a physical therapy program is often part of the recovery process.
Because the most common symptom associated with intermedullary tumors is general back pain, it’s sometimes difficult to achieve an accurate diagnosis quickly. Part of the reason for this is because tumors are a rare cause of spine-related pain. It’s often when neurological symptoms develop due to a tumor that additional testing is done to identify the source of nerve compression or irritation. Tumor removal sometimes results in post-surgery neurological conditions, although such issues are usually temporary.
Much like there are various types of spinal conditions, there are also many different fusion procedures and spinal fusion alternatives. Beverly Hills patients who are experiencing chronic pain in the back or neck should reach out to The Spine Institute. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.