Spinal Cord Tumors

An abnormal growth of cells in any part of our body is termed as tumor and it can be benign or malignant.

Spinal cord is a long, thin, cylindrical bundle of nerve fibers, associated tissues and support cells that connects nearly all parts of the body to the brain. Abnormal growth of cells in the spinal cord is termed as spinal cord tumor and there are two main types of tumors that can affect the spinal cord:

  • Intramedullary tumors
  • Extramedullary tumors

Primary & Secondary Spinal Cord Tumor

These are primary spinal cord tumors. This means that these tumors originate within the spinal cord. Other than this, tumors from other parts of the body like lung, prostrate etc. can also spread (metastasize) to the spinal cord itself. They are called secondary spinal cord tumors.

Whether benign or malignant or primary or secondary, a spinal cord tumor can be life-threatening and cause permanent disability

Cause of Primary Spinal Cord tumor

The cause of primary spinal cord tumor is not clear. Doctors and scientists believe that some of the primary tumors may occur due to defective genes that may be inherited or occur spontaneously or are caused by environmental factors, such as exposure to certain chemicals.

Symptoms of Spinal Cord tumor

Spinal tumor treatments

spinal tumor symptoms

The symptoms of spinal cord tumor depend on upon the following factors:

  • Position and location of the growth (tumor) in the spinal cord
  • Size and extent of tumor
  • Type of tumor
  • General health of the patient

Depending upon the above factors  tumor can lead to any of the following symptoms in the patient:

  • Pain in back that may radiate to other parts of the body
  • Pain worsens with activity and in night
  • Abnormal or loss of sensations in arms or legs
  • Loss of bowel or bladder function
  • Decreased sensitivity to pain, heat and cold
  • Muscle weakness and function loss
  • Difficulty walking that may lead to falls
  • Muscle contractions or spasms
  • Sometimes paralysis

Diagnosis of Spinal Cord Tumor

Spinal cord tumors may sometimes go unnoticed as its symptoms resemble various other disorders. But a physician generally takes complete medical and family history of a patient that comes with symptoms that appear in more than one disorder. In addition to history, a thorough physical and neurological examination of the patient is also performed  to evaluate the possibility of any tumor in the spine. Any suspicion may prompt the physician to perform following spinal tumor treatment diagnostic tests for a confirmed diagnosis:

  • Spinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computerized tomography (CT)
  • Myelogram
  • Lumbar puncture
  • Biopsy

spinal tumor treatment