The word “tumor” is not one anyone wishes to hear in a doctor’s office. But not all tumors (of the spine, or elsewhere in the body) are cancerous. These growths, when manifesting on the vertebrae or other spinal structures, can disrupt spinal function and cause pain, due to nerve impingement and interference with normal function.
Regardless of the status of the tumor in question, a tumor affecting any part of the spine can be life-threatening, due to its proximity to the spinal cord. As it grows, it becomes increasingly problematic, affecting blood vessels and nerves.
While the cause of non-cancerous spinal tumors is largely unknown, it can be linked (in some cases) to the genetically transmitted condition neurofibromatosis 2, as well as Von Hippel-Lindau disease, a rare condition associated with non-cancerous tumors throughout the body.
Cancerous spinal tumors are generally found in those with a history of breast, prostate and lung cancer, as well as multiple myeloma. Cancer from these areas may metastasize and reach the spine.
Pain which originates in the back and radiates to other parts of the body can signal the presence of a tumor. When sensation is lost in the arms or legs, it’s also possible that the reason may be traceable to a spinal tumor.
Difficulty walking which results in sudden falls, a loss of sensitivity to heat and cold and muscle weakness in any part of the body, may all indicate that a tumor is at fault. Finally, sudden incontinence is a serious symptom.
Important to note is that a cancerous tumor grows more rapidly, causing greater and more rapid dysfunction in the spine.
Diagnosis and treatment.
Spinal tumors and their symptoms can sometimes be difficult to recognize. Because they’re uncommon, the symptoms presented by these tumors can too often be mistaken for another, less serious condition.
For this reason, it’s imperative that persistent symptoms be answered by a thorough physical and neurological examination by a specialist. Medical history is also key to accurately diagnosing spinal tumors.
Medical imaging like MRIs and CT scans are crucial to pinpointing the location of spinal tumors and a biopsy can determine the tumor’s status (cancerous/non-cancerous).
Treatment of spinal tumors is complex and delicate, due to the nature of the spine. Total removal is always the goal, but this may not be possible, to avoid injury to the spinal cord. Surgery may be considered for some patients, but many spinal tumors may only require careful monitoring.
Age and physical health may also figure in doctor’s recommendations concerning surgical intervention and radiation or chemotherapy (in the event of a cancerous tumor).
Spine Care NJ.
If you suspect that you have a spinal tumor, it’s imperative that you seek diagnosis at your earliest opportunity. At Spine Consult NJ, we have your wellbeing in mind. Contact us to schedule an appointment.