Spinal Tumours

Spinal Tumours

Spinal tumors (also known as neoplasms) are abnormal growths of tissue found inside the spinal column. Tumors that originate in the spine, known as primary tumors, are very rare. Primary tumors can be either benign or malignant. Although benign tumors can cause pain and damage bone tissue, they are not as serious as malignant tumors, which can spread to other parts of the body.
Spinal tumors that result from cancer spreading from other parts of the body are secondary or metastatic tumors. Secondary tumors, which have already spread from elsewhere in the body to the spine are, by definition, always malignant.

Spinal Tumor Symptoms
Spinal cord tumors may cause pain, sensory changes, and motor problems. Nerve pain in the leg may indicate a problem in the spine at the nerve’s origin. Tumors may also cause weakness or loss of sensation in the extremities. Often, these types of symptoms are the result of degenerative disc disease or other more common problems, since spinal tumors occur infrequently.
The primary symptom of a spinal tumor, and the one that brings most patients to seek medical advice, is non-mechanical back pain (back pain not associated with any particular activities). While mechanical back pain due to muscle strains or disc injury usually worsens with activities such as sitting, bending, and walking and improves with rest or lying down, non-mechanical back pain is constant. Resting or lying down offers little or no relief. In fact, non-mechanical back pain may occur more frequently at night. Other symptoms of spinal tumors include sciatica, numbness, partial paralysis, spinal deformity, kyphosis, difficulty with bladder control, and fever.

Potential Causes of Spinal Tumors
The cause of most primary spinal tumors is unknown. However, given the higher incidence of primary spinal tumors in certain familial groups, a genetic predisposition is likely. In a small number of people, primary tumors may result from a specific genetic disease (e.g., neurofibromatosis) or from exposure to cancer-causing agents.

Diagnosing Spinal Tumors
Following a neurological exam, the most common tests for spinal tumors—X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and/or computerized tomography (CT), and a (closed) biopsy—may be necessary before planning definitive treatment. A consultation with an oncologist is sought to complete the diagnostic protocols.

Spinal Tumor Treatment
The three most common treatments for spinal tumors are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. The management of tumours entails a team approach. We involve an oncologist, radiation oncologist, oncosurgeon and a plastic surgeon to optimise the outcomes of the suggested treatment. If surgery is warranted, decompression, realignment and stabilizing the spine are the usual procedures. The tumour may require some sort of excision depending on the team opinion.