The spinal cord houses the most important nerves in the body. Therefore, any disease or disorder affecting the area can be difficult to manage and live with. A spinal cord tumour is a common occurrence and makes life difficult for patients. However, the treatment for tumours on the spinal cord differs based on the region that it affects and other factors.
Types of spinal cord tumours:
Tumours near the spine region can be classified into three types, based on the area that it grows.
• Inside the spinal cord - When a tumour grows inside the spinal cord, it is known as intramedullary. These types of tumours are the rarest. If a tumour affects your cervical spinal cord, it is likely to be intramedullary.
• Outside the spinal cord - A tumour may also grow outside the spinal cord, but still be inside the sac protecting the cord. This kind of spinal tumours is known as intradural/extramedullary.
• Outside the protective sac of the spinal cord - Lastly, the tumour may grow just outside the protective sac of the spinal cord. This is the most common type of a spinal tumour and is known as extradural. A tumour in this region can be malignant or benign.
Symptoms of spinal tumours:
Spine tumours may be difficult to diagnose because the associated symptoms are easily mistaken as other minor disorders or conditions. Here are some common symptoms of a spinal tumour-
• Extreme back pain is common for spinal tumours. This pain grows worse at night. Patients are unable to find relief from the pain even after rest.
• Numbness in the legs and arms
• Inability to walk or severe difficulty in certain movements
• Reduced sensitivity to stimuli, such as pain, heat and cold
• Loss of bowel and bladder control
Treatment for spinal tumours:
Treatment for a tumour depends on the kind of a tumour that affects the patient along with the region of growth. Some tumours may not cause any major difficulty in your quality of life. Doctors will recommend monitoring the growth in such a case. Treatment may not be needed.
In the case of benign tumours, surgery is recommended.
• Surgery - This is the most common form of treatment for benign tumours. If the doctor feels that a tumour is at a location where he/she can perform a safe surgical procedure to remove it, surgery is the best treatment option. However, such surgery can lead to minimal nerve damage.
In the case of cancerous tumours, the treatment is different.
• Radiation therapy - Radiation therapy is necessary to destroy the cancer cells in a tumour. Generally, radiation therapy is useful in cases, where surgery is impossible, due to the location of a tumour.
• Chemotherapy - Doctors may use medications to limit the growth of cancer. In such a case, the drugs help put your cancer in remission. However, the side effects of chemotherapy are severe.
If you experience back pain, visit your doctor. It may be spinal cord cancer. Early detection greatly helps in the treatment of the disease.