pinal tumours are the abnormal growth of uncontrolled tissues or cells in and around the spinal cord. Tumours can either be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign). Some of the commonly occurring benign spinal tumours include osteoma, osteoblastoma, hemangioma and osteochondroma. The most common malignant spinal tumours are chondrosarcoma, Ewing's sarcoma, lymphoma, osteosarcoma and multiple myeloma. Tumours that begin in the spine are called primary spinal tumours. Tumours that spread to the spine from other parts such as the breasts, prostate, lungs and other areas are called secondary spinal tumours.
The cause of primary spinal tumours is not known, but may occur from genetic defects.
Secondary spinal tumours occur when the cancer cells from other body parts spread to the spine. Other causes of these tumours include:
- Rapid division of cancer cells in the nerves, bones or cartilage of the spine
- Exposure to radiation and chemicals
- Hereditary: Neurofibromatosis is a tumour of the spinal nerves
People with spine tumours may experience persistent and chronic back pain, numbness, burning and tingling sensation, bladder or bowel control problems, loss of sensation in the legs, arms, ankles and knees and difficulty balancing.
Spine cancer can be diagnosed by a neurological examination. Imaging tests done to confirm the presence of a spinal tumour may include cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) examination, myelogram, spine computed tomography scan, spine magnetic resonance imaging scan and spine X-rays. In addition to these tests, a bone scan and positron emission tomography (PET) scan are also done. After the tumour is found, a biopsy is done to identify the type of tumour and provide necessary treatment.
Medications such as corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed to reduce inflammation and swelling around the spinal cord. External braces may also be used which provide support and assist in controlling pain.
Other treatments for spinal tumours include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and physical therapy. Surgery is done to remove tumours that are confined to only one portion of the spine. To minimise nerve damage, electrodes are used to test different nerves of the spine. In some cases, sound waves are used to break up tumours and the remaining tissue is removed.