Spinal Tumors and Cancer
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Herniated Disc
- Lower Back Pain
- Neck Pain
- Sciatica (Lumbar Radiculopathy)
- Spinal Arthritis
- Spinal Deformities
- Spine Infections
- Spinal Stenosis
- Spine Trauma and Spinal Cord Injuries
- Spinal Tumors and Cancer
- Tingling in Arms (Cervical Radiculopathy)
- Upper Back Pain
What is a Spinal Tumor?
When an abnormal mass or growth of cells is found growing uncontrollably within your spinal canal or within the bones of your spine, it is either a primary spinal cord or vertebral tumor, or a secondary or metastatic tumor.
A spinal cord (intradural) tumor begins within the spinal cord or the covering of the spinal cord (dura). A tumor that affects the bones of the spine (vertebrae) is called a vertebral tumor. The tumors can originate from nerves, spinal cord cells, the lining of the spinal cord (meninges), or from the bone. Keep in mind, the spine is not a single location, and is made of different types of tissues that span the entire length of your back, into your neck and pelvis. A tumor can form anywhere along the spine and in almost every type of tissue.
The secondary form, or metastatic tumors, metastasize or spread from cancer that started in another part of the body to the spine. Spinal tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous.) This growth can cause fractures that can lead to nerve and spinal cord injury from compression and occasionally spread to the neural tissue or in the spinal fluid. The abnormal cells can multiply and grow unchecked if not treated.
Metastatic Cancer of the Spine
This form of cancer develops in or near the spinal cord or within the vertebrae. It can spread through multiple levels of the spine. It can lead to a wide range of serious complications.
What Are Causes and Risk Factors of a Spine Tumor?
The exact cause is not clear, as to why spinal tumors develop. Most experts agree that defective genes are partially the cause. But it is not clear whether the defects are inherited or simply develop over time. They might also be caused by something in the environment such as exposure to chemicals.
There are genetic risk factors, however, with spinal cord tumors that are linked to known inherited syndromes, such as neurofibromatosis 2 and von Hippel-Lindau disease.
- Neurofibromatosis 2. In this hereditary disorder, benign tumors develop on or near the nerves related to hearing. This may lead to progressive hearing loss in one or both ears. Some people with neurofibromatosis 2 also develop spinal canal tumors.
- Von Hippel-Lindau disease. This rare, multisystem disorder is associated with blood vessel tumors (hemangioblastomas) in the brain, retina, and spinal cord and with other types of tumors in the kidneys or adrenal glands.
Spinal Tumor Symptoms
Spinal tumors or growths of any kind can lead to pain, neurological problems, and sometimes paralysis. Back pain is a common early symptom of spinal tumors. Pain may also spread beyond your back to your hips, legs, feet, or arms and may worsen over time — even with treatment. A spinal tumor can be life-threatening and cause permanent disability.
Many of the symptoms of a spinal tumor can develop gradually as it grows; however, both primary (originates in the spine) and secondary (metastasizes or spreads from another area of the body), can cause the same symptoms. The tumors can affect your spinal cord or the nerve roots, blood vessels, or bones of your spine. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, consult with your physician immediately:
- Numbness in the limbs
- Neck and/or back pain that is worse at night
- Pain in the area of the tumor
- Muscle weakness in the limbs
- Difficulty walking, sometimes leading to falls
- Deformities of the spine
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Paralysis in the limbs
- Less sensitivity to pain or temperature
When to see a doctor
While back pain is very common, most back pain is not caused by tumors. However, early diagnosis and treatment are important when treating tumors, so you should not ignore the symptoms if they are persistent and progressive. A tumor that presses against the spinal cord itself may be life-threatening. See your doctor if your back pain is:
- Persistent and progressive
- Unrelated to strenuous activity
- Worsens at night after resting
- New and you have a history of cancer
- Accompanied by other symptoms of cancer, such as nausea, vomiting, or dizziness
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience:
- Progressive muscle weakness or numbness in your legs or arms
- Changes in bowel or bladder function
How are Spinal Tumors Diagnosed?
Once several symptoms have surfaced, patients provide a medical history to help initiate the process of a tumor diagnosis. Then, spinal magnetic resonance imaging (an MRI), a CT scan, a biopsy, or a combination of approaches is used to accurately diagnose a spinal tumor. A biopsy will then determine exactly what type of tumor is present and will help determine the best treatment plan for your condition.
Treatment Options for Spinal Tumors and Spine Cancer
Treatment for a spinal tumor may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or other medications. Also, the type of tumor – benign or malignant – often dictates the course of treatment for spinal tumors.
Some benign tumors are watched over time with regular MRI scans. If the tumor is causing neurologic problems, surgical removal may be the best option. Ideally, spinal tumor surgery can completely remove the tumor with advanced surgical techniques and a maximum safety margin.
Even if a tumor is removed, spinal tumors may still require chemotherapy or radiation. A brace or surgical fusion might be necessary if a spinal fracture or instability is a concern. These treatment options will be discussed with Dr. Fayaz as he collaborates with your oncologists to ensure that you receive the best course of treatment and outcome.
If you are in the North Houston, Conroe, The Woodlands, Spring area and believe you need to see a spine specialist for spinal tumors or cancer call our office at 281-880-0700 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Fayaz.