A Patient’s Overview of Spinal Tumors: From Recognition to Recovery
Spinal tumors are a painful but, thankfully, highly treatable condition. They can form in both in vertebral canal and within the bones of the spine themselves. While tumors may initially present without pain, when left untreated they can lead to radiating pain, weakness, ill effects on the nervous system, and other symptoms. As with other tumors in other areas of the body, spinal tumors can be both malignant or benign. This distinction naturally affects the treatment plan, with malignant tumors requiring additional care to ensure recovery.
Signs of Vertebral Tumors
In many cases, tumors first present without any notable symptoms. Unfortunately, leaving a tumor untreated can lead to painful or serious conditions which greatly impact the patient’s quality of life. As the tumor begins to grow, the patient may begin to experience back pain that radiates to areas near the tumor site, as well as weakness or loss of sensation in the extremities. This loss of sensation may include a reduced sensitivity to cold and heat. In other cases, a degree of paralysis may be present. While less common, more serious and troublesome symptoms include loss of bladder or bowel control, neurological issues, or difficulty with walking.
The exact cause of spinal tumors is unclear. Some evidence, however, suggests that there may be a genetic component which makes certain patients more likely to develop the condition. Patients with a history of cancer elsewhere in the body who are experiencing symptoms of a spinal tumor should consider consulting with a professional as soon as possible.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Since a tumor may often be mistaken for a herniated disk or other spinal issue that presents similar symptoms, it is vital to consult a physician for an accurate diagnosis. In addition to reviewing your associated symptoms, your doctor may also employ an MRI, often combined with contrast dye to ensure an accurate diagnosis, or a CT scan. If a tumor is located, a biopsy may be necessary to determine if the tumor is benign or malignant.
Once the tumor has been identified, your doctor will determine whether or not surgery is possible or necessary. For small, benign tumors, regular monitoring through imaging paired with a pain management plan is all that is necessary. This may also be done in cases where the location of the tumor prevents surgery.
In cases where surgery is necessary, generally the whole tumor is removed. Your surgeon may employ radiation therapy if removing all of the tumor isn’t possible, as this will destroy those portions left behind. Chemotherapy is a viable option for patients with malignant tumors. In cases where surgery results in damage to the spine’s integrity, spinal fusion may be performed to restore stability.
The Road to Recovery
While spinal tumors can become a serious issue when left untreated, caring, professional treatment can restore your quality of life and place you on the road to recovery. Schedule a consultation with Jeffrey M. Epstein to begin your journey towards peace of mind and a life free of pain.