Spinal Tumors: aka Benign Spinal Tumors, Malignant Tumors, Malignant Spinal Tumors, Metastatic Spinal Tumors
What is it?
Spinal tumors whether benign spinal tumors or malignant are growths that form in the spine. Spinal tumors are dangerous because they can spread or metastasize to other areas of the body including the veins, the lymphatic system, the arteries and other areas of the body. Malignant tumors of the body, tumors containing cancer, can and do often spread into the spinal cord, thus the name spinal tumors.
Spinal tumors become a threat to the person that has them when they cause spinal compression or when they compress nerve roots in the spine which can lead to various forms of dysfunction.
Often the only signs and spinal tumor symptoms are back pain. Many times people experience pain during activity or pain at night. Still others experience pain related to sciatica, so the pain radiates down one or both legs and buttocks. Other people may experience numbness and partial or some paralysis.
There are many forms of spinal tumors, including benign spinal tumors. Here are some primary types of benign or non-malignant (not cancer-causing) spinal tumors.
- Osteoid osteoma - this is a small tumor that forms in the bone that can cause pain in young adults.
- Osteochondroma - this is a slower-growing tumor typically found in the cartilage instead of the bone and it is also common in adolescents or young adults.
- Osteoblastoma - this is also common in younger adults and children although it can grow to be large and can cause paralysis.
- Plasmacytoma - this is a cancerous tumor that is often found during middle age and often found in the vertebra
- Lymphoma - this tumor is typically fond in the vertebral body although it can form in the lymphatic system or involve the lymph system.
- Osteocarcoma - this is a common cancer tumor found in adolescents but also in middle-age adults and often spread to other areas of the body.
Surgery is needed at times if pain does not respond to alternative treatments. Surgery may also be necessary to biopsy tissue, or when a tumor needs debulking (the size of the tumor needs to be reduced). Sometimes surgery can also stabilize the spinal column.
Typically during surgery spinal fusion occurs to reconstruct the spinal column. The tumor may be debulked and removed. Then the surgeon will work to reconstruct and stabilize the spine. Scoliosis or other abnormalities or curvatures of the spinal column may be corrected to some extent.
Spinal instrumentation is a special procedure that uses special hardware including bars, wires, screws and rods to help stabilize the spine. This can help hold the spine steady and straight during a fusion as well.
Alternatives to Surgery
Not all spinal tumors require surgery. Usually a spinal tumor requires staging. Typically doctors classify abnormal tissue according to how much soft tissue and bony tissue is involved. A bone-scan may be performed as may a chest x-ray. Treatment may entail a combination of specialists including an oncologist, spinal surgeon, neuroradiologist, pathologist and other specialists. Bracing, chemotherapy and radiation are all non-surgical alternatives for removing a tumor causing problems that do not require surgery. Pain management specialists can help patients manage pain when pain becomes difficult to handle.
Before the Operation
Radiation and chemotherapy can reduce the infection fighting white blood cells in the body so some patients will have to wait until this number is stable before they can undergo surgery.
After the Operation- In the Hospital
A patient may need to stay in the hospital for several days following surgery until they receive clearance from their doctor. Usually this means the doctor will reevaluate the tumor to decide whether further surgery is needed and to determine whether the tumor was benign or malignant. This will help predict whether the tumor will come back again.
Further treatment may be needed including radiation.
After the Operation- At Home
At home patients will need plenty of rest to help restore their strength. That is not to say they should remain bedridden. As much as possible with the doctor’s permission they should try to get up and about to stay as active as possible so the muscles in the body do not decondition any more than necessary.
There are risks associated with any surgery and that is the case with spinal tumors. Malignant tumors may recur or come back. Some may metastasize or spread into other areas of the body. The surgeon will do the best they can to localize the tumor so it does not spread to other areas of the body.
Spinal tumors are a rare but serious condition that can cause deformities, pain, scoliosis and other conditions. Spinal tumors can be benign or non-cancerous or malignant. If malignant the cancer can metastasize or spread to other areas of the body. It is important if you experience back pain, the number one symptom of spinal tumors, that you have your condition evaluated at your earliest convenience.
Some tumors can be treated conservatively, but others will require direct intervention including debulking to reduce the size of the tumor or complete removal. If doctors suspect the tumor is fast-growing or has spread they may recommend additional therapies including radiation or chemotherapy.
Estimated Costs of Spinal Tumor Removal
The costs of surgery to debulk or remove malignant tumors vary from person to person and country to country. Insurance is you have it is likely to pick up part of the cost depending on your insurance plan. Many people save money by having their health care procedures managed overseas. Make sure you work with a reputable company and sophisticated doctors that are board certified and qualified to treat rare and complicated conditions.