A spinal cord tumor is a growth that develops in the spinal cord or its coverings. It is also called intradural tumor
Types of spinal cord tumors
Benign: these tumors are non cancerous and can be surgically removed completely. They have very good prognosis.
Malignant: these tumors arise within the spinal cord and recur after surgical removal. Prognosis is guarded.
They can also be classified depending on their location
Intramedullary tumors arising within the spinal cord. Majority of them are malignant,
Extra medullary tumors arising from the covering of the spinal cord. They compress the spinal; cord and produce symptoms. They are all benign.
Causes and risk factors
It is not clear why these tumors develop. Some say defective genes may be the cause. What is not certain is whether these defective genes are inherited or caused by the influence of environment. They are some risk factors like neurofibromatosis 2 and Von Hippel Lindau disease, which cause spinal cord tumors.
What are the symptoms?
Pain at the site of tumor
Back pain with radiation to lower limbs
Absence of sensitivity to pain, heat and cold
Loss of bowel and bladder functions
Difficulty in walking with frequent falls
Back pain that is worse in the nights
Loss of sensation and muscle weakness in arms and legs
When to see a doctor?
Back pain if progressive and persistent
Back pain that is more at nights
Back pain that is not related to any activity
Progressive muscle weakness and numbness in arms and legs
Changes in bladder and bowel functions
How does one diagnose?
Proper clinical history and good clinical examination
MRI with contrast enhancement. It outlines the tumor well from the surrounding structures.
What are the treatment modalities?
Surgery is the mainstay in the treatment. With technological advances like microsurgery and CUSA the morbidity of the surgery has come down remarkably. The use of intra operative neuro monitoring further improves the results.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy can be used as adjuvants.
Steroids will help reduces the swelling of the spinal cord and help in good surgical outcome.