Spinal tumors can develop everywhere in the vertebral column, including your spinal cord, vertebrae, and adjacent tissues. The most prevalent cause of spinal tumors is cancer metastasis or cancer that has spread from the other body part to the spine.
Apart from statistics showing men are detected with cancer at a little higher rate than women, there seems to be no clear image of any group of people who are more at risk for spinal cancer. Some inherited illnesses, a weakened immune system, past radiotherapy, and chemical exposure may raise spinal cancer risk.
Spinal cord cancer is the unwanted proliferation of cells within or near your spinal cord or spinal column.
Spinal tumors could be found in the following places:
- In the tissues that protect your brain stem (intradural-extramedullary).
- Around your spine’s meninges and bones (extradural).
- In your spine’s bony vertebrae.
If the tumor grows in size, it may cause harm to various tissues in the spinal column.
Primary spinal cord cancer is a tumor that arises in the vertebrae or brainstem. Cancer travels from another body region to the spine, resulting in metastatic or secondary spinal tumors. Primary spinal cancers are far less prevalent than metastatic spinal tumors.
Types Of Spinal Cord Tumor
Spinal tumors are classified in a variety of ways by medical providers, such as:
- Your tumor’s position on your spine
- The location of the tumor in your spinal column (intradural medullary, intra-extramedullary, or extradural)
- If the tumor began in your spine (primary spinal cord cancer) or if it is the outcome of malignant growth from somewhere else in your body.
- Find out whether the tumor is normal or abnormal.
Regions of the Spine & Spinal Anatomy
The following are the various sections of your spine:
- Cervical: It means the neck.
- Thoracic: Upper and mid-back.
- Lower back (lumbar).
- Sacrum: The lowest part of your spine.
While spinal cord cancer can occur in either of these areas, the thoracic and lumbar regions seem to be the most prevalent.
Spinal Tumor Symptoms
In contrast to pain, other indications and symptoms may appear based on the area and type of spinal tumor. When cancer develops and acts against your spinal cord, spinal roots, blood vessels, or spine bones.
The indications and symptoms of spinal cord cancer are as follows:
- Arms and chest tingling, numbness, or loss of sensation in the legs
- Shoulders, chest, or Legs, muscle twitching
- Muscle cramps or twitches
- Neck or back discomfort
- Issues with defecation and bladder control issues (bowel incontinence and urinary incontinence)
- Difficulty stepping, which could result in a fall
- A massive or deadly tumor causes scoliosis and other spine abnormalities.
- Paralysis can affect various sections of your body and in different degrees based on which nerves the cancer is squeezing.
Causes of Spinal Cord Tumor Cancer
The type of spinal tumor determines the cause: primary or secondary.
Primary Spinal Cord Cancer
Most primary spinal tumors have no known source, according to scientists. Most of them might be affected by exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. People with compromised immune systems are more likely to develop spinal cord lymphomas (cancers that attack a kind of immune cell). Because spinal cancers can run in generations, doctors believe there is a hereditary component.
Secondary Spinal Cord Cancer
Secondary spinal cord cancers are associated with cancer that originated elsewhere in your body and moved to your spine.
Cancer cells split out from the original tumor and enter your circulation or lymphatic system, causing metastases. Since these systems transport fluids throughout your body, it is possible to transport cancer cells from one part of your body to another.
Risk Factors for Spinal Cord Cancer
Compared to other malignancies of the body, the risk factors for spinal cord cancer are significantly less well characterized. The following are known risk factors:
Prior cancer history: Cancers of the breast, lung, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma, may be more prone to spread to the spine.
Immune system problems: Some persons with weakened immune systems get brainstem lymphomas.
Hereditary illnesses: Von Hippel-Lindau disease and Neurofibromatosis (NF2) are genetic disorders that are occasionally linked to spinal tumors.
Exposures: Radiation therapy or exposure to industrial toxins may raise the risk of acquiring spine cancer.
How is Spinal Cord Cancer Diagnosed?
Those with acute spinal tumors frequently assume their back discomfort is connected to a recent injury, whether genuine or suspected. It is critical to see your healthcare practitioner if you suffer back pain, especially when you have cancer. Your doctor will order some tests to ensure or rule out a tumor diagnosis.
X-rays are the imaging test of choice for cancer patients who experience abrupt back discomfort. This is because metastatic spinal cancers frequently grow in the bone section of your spine.
Your healthcare physician may order an MRI or CT scan of your brainstem, nerves, and adjoining spine (bony and soft tissue). If you have malignant spinal cancer, your doctor or nurse may utilize imaging procedures to look for the tumor’s origins in other parts of your body.
A biopsy, which includes extracting a tissue sample from the tumor to assess if it is benign or malignant, may be ordered by your healthcare professional. A pathologist examines the piece to see whether it is growing or spreading, and if so, at what rate. A biopsy can also define cancer’s kind, affecting treatment options if the tumor is malignant.
Throughout a bone scan, your doctor or nurse injects a small amount of a radioactive substance into your vein and, after that, uses radiography to inspect your bones. The radioactive material’s travel is tracked to find abnormal spots in your spine.
Your doctor may conduct some blood tests to check for unusual amounts of calcium and alkaline phosphatase in your blood. Whenever bone tissue dissolves due to cancer, your body produces these compounds in your blood.
Medications and Treatments for Spinal Cord Cancer
The type of tumor determines the treatments available for spinal tumors.
Primary Spinal Cancer Treatment
Your doctor may advise keeping MRIs if you have a benign primary spine tumor that is asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic and does not appear to evolve or progress.
For a potential treatment, sometimes doctors surgically remove primary spinal tumors with total en bloc resection (permanent removal of cancer). However, surgical removal of some tumor forms, particularly those that grow inside the spinal cord (intramedullary), is not possible without considerable neural injury.
If your spinal tumor is cancerous, you will require cancer therapies such as those indicated below.
Secondary Spinal Cancer Treatment
Following are the options available for treating secondary spinal cord cancer:
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy medications can result in cell death in the spine and elsewhere in the body. Chemotherapy is administered as a venous injection or as a pill. Before surgery, medical professionals may use chemotherapy to shrink the tumor.
Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is a form of treatment in which strong doses of X-rays are used to destroy tumor cells or shrink tumors. It is possible to shrink the tumor to the point where it no longer causes pain or other symptoms.
Stereotactic radiosurgery: Stereotactic radiosurgery is a non-invasive, non-surgical method that delivers precise, narrow radiation beams to a tumor while minimizing exposure to adjacent tissue.
Surgery: Surgery may be employed to:
- To eliminate cancer cells from one section of the spinal column.
- To alleviate the symptoms of a malignant spinal tumor.
- Remove any tissue that is pushing on the spinal cord or nerves.
- Reduce the accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid.
Monitoring: With frequent imaging examinations, your medical team can closely monitor your cancer for symptoms of emergence and expansion.
Survival Rate for Spinal Cord Cancer
The figures in the table are centered on persons who were diagnosed between 2001 and 2015, as per the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States (CBTRUS). These figures represent some of the most frequent brain and spinal cancers. For many types of tumors, exact data are not easily available, sometimes since they are rare or difficult to classify.
Type of Tumor
5-Year Relative Survival Rate
Low-grade (diffuse) astrocytoma
Prevention of Spinal Cord Cancer
Primary and secondary spinal cancers have different prevention approaches.
Keeping Primary Spinal Cord Cancers At Bay
Primary spinal cord cancers are inevitably untreated. They can occur in a tiny percentage of people who have particular hereditary abnormalities, such as:
Type 2 neurofibromatosis (NF2): Adults with this inherited (genetic) illness might develop benign tumors in the arachnoid layer of the spinal cord or the accompanying glial cells.
VHL (von Hippel-Lindau): VHL is a specific hereditary illness connected to benign blood vessel tumors in the retina, brain, and spinal cord, along with numerous kidney malignancies.
If you have a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) who has one of these disorders, you should get diagnostic tests or test whether you have it. The right decision is usually achieved when spinal tumors are detected early on.
Keeping Secondary Spinal Cord Cancer At Bay
Not every secondary spinal cord cancer has a guaranteed cure.
If you’ve been identified with confined cancer, adjuvant or neoadjuvant therapy is the greatest strategy to avoid secondary spine cord cancer. Adjuvant therapy aims to decrease the underlying tumor while also preventing tumor cells that have split away from the actual tumor from generating metastatic cancers.