Spinal cord tumours can cause back pain, neurological problems and temporary or permanent changes to mobility. Some people also experience loss of sensation to their arms and legs or muscle weakness, and your bladder or bowel function can also be affected. It's not always clear why some people develop spinal cord tumours, but genetics and environmental triggers are thought to play a role. A combination of diagnostic imaging and biopsy is required to diagnose a spinal cord tumour and establish its precise location and size. Read on to learn about the treatment options for spinal cord tumours.
Chemotherapy utilises drugs to destroy tumour cells and prevent further growth. It can be an effective treatment for some types of spinal tumours and can be used alone or in combination with radiation therapy. When undergoing chemotherapy, you may experience nausea, fatigue, hair loss and vomiting.
Similar to chemotherapy, radiation therapy aims to destroy tumour cells and is often suggested when the location of a spinal tumour makes surgery too risky. It can also be used as a post-surgery treatment when remnants of tumour tissue remain, which may be the case when tumours are located too close to nerve endings.
Surgery to remove the tumour is often recommended and there are a few possible surgical procedures to choose from. Your surgeon will explain the right type of spine surgery based on their diagnostic findings.
Decompression surgery involves removing as much of the tumour as is necessary to relieve pressure on the nerve ending around the spinal cord. This can greatly reduce your symptoms, but you will need to be monitored to ensure there is no further growth of tumour tissue.
Embolization surgery involves destroying a spinal tumour by cutting off its blood supply. The tumour tissue is left intact, but it will shrink. This can be a good option if the tumour is located on the outside of the spinal cord and there's no risk of the shrunken tumour tissue causing nerve irritation or damage.
Vertebroplasty may be necessary when a spinal tumour develops within a vertebra. This can cause the vertebra to fracture, so your surgeon will apply bone cement to stabilise it. After any type of spinal surgery, you will require a period of rehabilitation to aid your recovery, so discuss the recovery period with your surgeon to ensure you take enough time off work and have suitable care arrangements in place.
If you'd like to know more about any of the treatment options for spinal tumours, speak to your neurologist.