A spinal tumor occurs when an abnormal or cancerous growth develops on your spinal cord or the bones and structures of your spine.
In general, we can classify spinal tumors in four different ways. These groupings include:
There are so many different types of spinal tumors that doctors group these cancers according to where they grow. Often, the location of the tumor and it’s status as benign vs. malignant will determine the symptoms that result. The 3 main areas of the spine where spine tumors develop include:
Vertebral Column Tumors (VCT): These types of cancers affect the bony parts and cushioning components of your spine: the vertebrae and spinal discs. (Your vertebral column is simply the medical term for your spine.)
If you have a VCT, then it is likely to be classified as a secondary tumor. For example, multiple myeloma often spreads from white blood cells to the bone marrow. Moreover, because your spinal column is the most exposed part of your spine, it is particularly prone to these types of tumors.
Common types of primary, malignant VCTs include:
…to name a very few!
Intramedullary Tumors (IMT): Intramedullary Tumors grow within the core of the spinal cord, also known as the spinal medulla. These tumors usually arise from the glial cells, which act as the “glue” to hold our nervous system together. Despite their often benign status, these tumors can be difficult or dangerous to remove.
The 3 most common types of ITMs are:
Intradural-Extramedullary Tumors: Three membranes, known collectively as the meninges, wrap around and protect the spinal cord: the dura, arachnoid, and pia mater. Intradural-Extramedullary Tumors form inside the dura mater (hence, the intradural part of the name). However, these tumors are also located outside of the spinal medulla. Hence, we refer to them extramedullary to stress that they do not reside on the spinal cord.
If you have this type of tumor, then you may have a:
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Spinal tumors can cause a variety of symptoms, which vary according to their:
However, some of the most common symptoms associated with spine cancers include:
Worried that you might have a spinal tumor? At New Jersey Spine & Ortho, our board-certified spine doctors specialize in tumors of the spinal cord, bones, and nerves. Don’t wait to seek medical attention, as spinal tumors can spread to other parts of the body!
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If you have been diagnosed with a spinal tumor, then your doctor will begin by conducting a thorough exam of your entire body.
Remember that secondary spinal tumors spread to the spine from cancers that are located elsewhere in the body. Likewise, metastatic spinal tumors can spread from the spine to nearby organs and structures, like the lungs, liver, or pelvis. As such, your initial exam should involve imaging techniques, including MRIs, X-rays, and CT scans. These tools will allow your doctor to detect the presence of cancer in other parts of the body.
From there, you will find that the location and severity of the tumor often determines your course of treatment. For example:
Vertebral Column Tumors: VCTs often arise from cancers that metastasize from other parts of the body to the bones and discs of your spine. This means that resecting (or removing) the tumor does not cure the original disease. But, combined with other surgeries or radiation therapy, a patient can beat this form of cancer.
In fact, recent advancements in cancer technology have made radiation therapy a first line of offense against VCTs. Prior to techniques like radiotherapy, doctors opted for surgical treatment whenever possible. However, now, your doctor can treat spinal tumors without resorting to operations.
Furthermore, if your VCT compresses your spinal cord, then your doctor may choose to complete separation surgery. This procedure creates added space around the spinal cord to permit the safe delivery of radiation. Making room around the spinal cord also protects it from damage during radation therapy sessions.
Other forms of surgical treatment for VCTs aim to:
Intramedullary & Intradural-Extramedullary Tumors: Although these tumors emerge in different parts of the spine, doctors usually treat them with the same goal in mind. If you have either types of these tumors, then your doctor will attempt to remove the tumor first. Sometimes, your doctor may need to recruit radiation or chemotherapy after performing the initial procedure.
Looking for a spine surgeon who specializes in tumor resection? Our doctors use minimally invasive techniques to remove spine tumors with less blood loss, pain, scarring, and recovery times. Our sophisticated techniques, like radiofrequency ablation, use cutting-edge technologies to eliminate your tumor on the first attempt.
Contact one of our spine cancer specialists, like Dr. Douglas Slaughter, today–and get your life back!
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