Spinal Cord Tumor

Tumors in the spinal cord are cancerous cells that either originate from the spine or develop as a result of metastasis from other parts of the body. These tumors are abnormal masses of cells that are formed on the cord, causing immense pain and pressure on the spine.

Signs and Symptoms

Spinal cord tumors cause significant pain as they obstruct the backbone and its intricate structure. Back pain accompanied by numbness of limbs, muscle weakness, contractions and spasms in the muscles and difficulty in bowel control are some of the most common symptoms of spinal cord tumor. Sensory changes and motor problems are the most prominent symptoms of spinal cord tumor.

Treatment

  • Surgery is the primary mode of dealing with all types of spinal cord tumors –benign or malignant. This could cost around $16,000 and upwards depending on the complexity of the surgery.
  • Those tumors which are likely to damage the spinal cord are treated with a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. They can together cost about $100,000 excluding the post operative care.
  • Even after a complete surgical removal of a tumor, chemotherapy is administered to render the body safe from any other cancerous cells in the region. Corticosteroid drugs are given to prevent swelling of the cord. Physiotherapy is recommended to restore motor skills of the individual. Such continued care can cost upwards of $2,000 per month.

Types and Causes

Spinal cord tumor can affect people of all ages but more common among middle-aged and young adults. Most spinal cord tumors are secondary caused due to metastasis and primary ones are very rare.

Spinal cord tumors can be of 3 types:

  • Extradural – originating in the bony cage of the spine
  • Intradural – growing outside the cord
  • Intramedullary – growing within the cord

Tests & Procedures

Starting from physical examination, diagnosis of spinal cord tumor involves imaging techniques such as CT scan, MRI and PET scans. A myelogram and lumbar puncture are cellular techniques of determining if cancerous cells exist in the spinal cord.

Side Effects

As with any surgery, side effects of spinal cord surgery can range from infection to injury to paralysis.