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What is Spine Tumor?

A spine tumor is the abnormal growth of uncontrolled tissues or cells in and around the spinal cord. Tumors can either be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign). Tumors that begin in the spine are called primary spinal tumors. Tumors that spread to the spine from other parts such as the breast, prostate, lung, and other areas are called secondary spinal tumors.

Types of Spine Tumors

Some of the commonly occurring benign spinal tumors are osteoma, osteoblastoma, hemangioma, and osteochondroma. Most commonly occurring malignant spinal tumors are chondrosarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, lymphoma, osteosarcoma, and multiple myeloma.

Causes of Spine Tumors

The cause of primary spinal tumors is not known but may occur with genetic defects.

Secondary spinal tumors occur when the cancer cells arise from the kidneys, lungs, breasts, and spread to the spine. The other causes may include:

  • Rapid division of cancer cells in the nerves, bones or cartilage of the spine
  • Exposure to radiations and chemicals
  • Hereditary tumors including neurofibromatosis, a tumor of the spinal nerves

Symptoms of Spine Tumors

You may experience persistent and chronic back pain, numbness, burning and tingling sensation, loss of sensation in your arms, knees, legs, and ankles, difficulty in balancing, and experience bladder or bowel control problems.

Diagnosis of Spine Tumors

Spine cancer can be diagnosed by neurological examination, which identifies the exact location of the tumor. Other imaging tests ordered may include cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) examination, myelogram, spine computed tomography scan, spine magnetic resonance imaging scan and spine X-ray. In addition to these tests, a bone scan and positron emission tomography (PET) scan are also done. Once the tumor is found, a biopsy is performed to identify the type of tumor and provide necessary treatment.

Treatments for Spinal Tumors

Medications such as corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed to reduce inflammation and swelling around the spinal cord. External braces are also used to provide support and control pain.
Other treatments may provide permanent relief.

  • Surgery: It is performed to remove the tumor confined only to one portion of the spine. Some of the complications observed after surgery are temporary loss of sensation, nerve tissue damage and bleeding. To minimize nerve damage, electrodes are used to test different nerves of the spine. In some cases, sound waves are used to break tumors and the remaining tissues are removed.
  • Radiation therapy: This method uses high beam of radiations to destroy the cancer cells. It is used after surgery to destroy the remaining cancer cells. An advanced device called cyberknife, painless and non-invasive treatment that passes high doses of radiations to the targeted areas of the spinal cord, is used in radiotherapy.
  • Chemotherapy: A combination of anti-cancer drugs is used to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is used to shrink, stop the division and prevent the cancer cells from spreading to the surrounding tissues. The drugs enter the bloodstream and reach the cancer cells to destroy them.
  • Physical therapy: Exercises may be needed to improve muscle strength and the ability to function independently.
  • American Medical Association
  • American College of Osteopathic Surgeons
  • American Osteopathic Association
  • North American Spine