Spinal Cord Tumor

What is a Spinal Cord Tumor?

Tumors that grow on the spinal cord or in the lining around it can become life-threatening very quickly or slowly grow over years and decades. It can take a long time to notice the symptoms of a tumor, resulting in the cancer reaching an advanced stage before treatment begins.

There are no distinct causes linked to any of the three forms of spinal tumors, but there are a few genetic mutations that seem to increase your chances for developing this condition. Some spinal tumors are benign, but may still grow and interrupt nerve transmission or blood flow.

What are the Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Tumor?

Early signs of a spinal tumor include:

  • The feeling of cold in the extremities
  • Issues with bladder and bowel control
  • Stumbling, leg weakness, and other difficulties when walking
  • Spasms and cramping in any of the major muscle groups
  • Concentrated pain in one part of the back or across a whole section of the spine.

As the tumors spread and grow, the symptoms of advanced stages are:

  • Seizures due to brain damage
  • Loss of balance and severe vertigo
  • Changes to your personality or extreme mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Eventual coma

Spinal Cord Tumor Causes

Medical science believes mutated genes are the primary cause of spinal cord tumors. Recognition of this condition as hereditary is still under review, although two inherited health conditions currently linked to spinal cord tumors are neurofibromatosis and von Hippel-Lindau disease.

Primary causes of spinal cord tumors begin inside the spine’s structure. Neurofibromatosis is one of the most common causes of spinal cord tumors, and is non-cancerous. Von Hippel-Lindau is a rare genetic disorder which causes benign spinal cord tumors associated with blood vessels.

Secondary spine tumors result from an existing health conditions. Weakened immune systems increase the risk of spinal cord tumors developing, as does a prior history of individual cancers spreading to the spine. In these instances, breast, lung and prostate tumors can spread to the spinal cord. Other secondary causes include heavy exposure to medical radiation or industrial chemicals.

How is a Spinal Cord Tumor Treated?

If the tumor is located in the right area for surgery removal, this is the first line of treatment used to tackle the problem. Injections of corticosteroids shrink benign or cancerous tumors to prevent them from compressing the spinal cord and damaging the tissue.

Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are the only options for tumors deep in the bone marrow or the lining of the spine where surgery is difficult or dangerous. After surgery, physical therapy helps the patient restore their motor function.

Spinal Cord Tumor Prevention

There are no known preventions for spinal cord tumors, but you can reduce the risks with lifestyle changes and good health management. Healthy diets with proper nourishment helps to strengthen the immune system, ensuring our body’s defense functions are working with full force.

Talk to your doctor about existing health conditions and family genetics before receiving medical treatments involving radiation therapy. In most cases, radiation doses are controllable, aiding in the prevention of tumor growth. Your doctor can also prescribe and monitor interactions of medications or chemical treatments for an existing condition that won’t trigger the spread of tumors.

If there is a prior history or genetic links to spinal cord tumors in your family, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor regularly. The more you learn and share with your doctor about your own medical history will help allow them to diagnose the condition in the early stages, and prevent any life-threatening risks.