Spinal cord tumors are tumors that develop from the spinal cord or its membrane or nerve sheaths. These are the main types of intradural tumors:
Tumors that develop from spinal cord tissue (Intradural Intramedullary) begin in cells within the spinal cord, such as gliomas, astrocytomas, or ependymomas.
Tumors that develop from the spinal cord membrane (dura) or nerve sheath (Intradural Extramedullary) grow in the membrane surrounding the spinal cord or in the nerve roots exiting the spinal cord. Although they do not start inside the spinal cord, such tumors can affect spinal cord function by causing spinal cord compression and other problems. Relatively benign tumors such as meningiomas, neurofibromas, and schwannomas are included in this group.
Spinal tumors are tumors that develop in the spinal canal or the bones that form the spine. It is also called vertebral tumor. They can start from the spine and hold the spinal cord, putting pressure on the spinal cord.
Metastatic Tumors, tumors from other parts of the body can spread by metastasizing to the vertebrae, the supporting structures around the spinal cord, or in rare cases, the spinal cord itself.
Spinal cord tumor findings
Spinal cord tumors can cause different signs and symptoms depending on the location, size and spread of the tumor. Tumors can affect the spinal cord or the nerve roots, blood vessels, or bones of the spine.
Pain: It can be seen as a burning, disturbing pain in the tumor location area. Back pain is a common early symptom of spinal tumors. It is evident that the pain increases at night. Pain in the arms or legs may occur due to nerve root compression.
Loss of strength, loss of sensation: Loss of sensation or muscle weakness may be observed, especially in the arms or legs. Sometimes walking difficulties may develop, leading to falls. Sensory disorders that make you less sensitive to pain, heat and cold may develop
Loss of bowel or bladder function: Symptoms such as constipation, difficulty urinating or incontinence, and loss of erection may be observed.
Other findings: Findings such as scoliosis, palpable swelling, torticollis, and balance disorder may be observed.
Spinal cord tumors, or any type of spinal tumor compression, can cause pain, neurological problems, and sometimes paralysis. It can be life-threatening and cause permanent disability.
Spinal cord tumor diagnosis
The diagnosis of spine and spinal cord tumors is made by radiological diagnostic methods such as x-ray, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, in addition to clinical examination. Additional diagnostic methods such as EMG, SEP, MEP can also be used to measure and evaluate spinal cord functions.
Spinal cord tumor treatment
Although the aim is to completely remove and eliminate the tumor, a treatment plan is made by evaluating the patient’s age, general clinical condition, tumor type, spread, etc. Accordingly, treatment of spine or spinal cord tumors may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or other medications.
When to see a doctor?
- Since early diagnosis and treatment is important for spinal tumors, consult your doctor about your back pain if:
- If you have persistent and progressive pain,
- If your pain gets worse at night,
- If you have a history of cancer and have new back pain,
- If you have other cancer symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or dizziness,
- If you have progressive muscle weakness or numbness in your legs or arms.