Spine and Spinal Cord Tumors

Spine and spinal cord tumors are tumors that appear in the bones or nerves or other soft tissues that make up the spine and spinal cord. It is possible to divide spinal cord tumors into two groups, which are those outside the dura mater (extradural) and those between dura mater and spinal cord (intradural extramedullary). Spinal cord tumors may arise from cells that make up the structure of the spine and spinal cord as well as spread of tumors developing in other parts of the body (breast, prostate, lung, etc.) to the cord.

As with most other tumors, the cause of spine and spinal cord tumors is not exactly known. Genetic factors, exposure to certain chemicals, radiation uptake, viruses are the main risk factors in the formation of these tumors. Especially the cancers spreading from other organs love the spine very much and it is the region where metastasis is often encountered.

Spine and spinal cord tumors show symptoms depending on their location. The most common symptoms include:

  • Pain, especially back pain is the most common complaint. Pain gets worse during night and usually isn't relieved by resting. Pains are spread, rather than regional.
  • The disease may be accompanied by symptoms such as fever and weight loss, fatigue.
  • Loss of strength, numbness may occur in the neck region, arms and legs. If there are tumors in the back and waist, symptoms such as weakness, numbness, ataxia may occur only in the legs.
  • Urinary incontinence, inability to control faeces may occur depending on the area of the tumor.
  • Loss of sexual function is a symptom that can be seen in some tumors.
  • Distortion of reflexes is commonly observed.
  • Numbness, bedridden condition may occur.
  • Loss of strength in the form of clumsiness, weakness, drop attacks is frequent in children. Another complaint in children is curvature in the spine, which we call scoliosis.

Radiological imaging is essential in the diagnosis of spine and spinal cord tumors. Direct radiography, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, angiography, bone scintigraphy are the methods used in diagnosis. Once a tumor is detected by imaging methods, biopsy should be performed to determine the type and source of the tumor.

Spinal cord and spine tumors are tumors which are treated by branches, including brain and nerve surgery, neurology, radiation oncology, medical oncology, pathology by deciding among themselves. After the location and type of the tumor are determined, methods such as surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy can be utilized individually or in combination. Benign tumors can be monitored by regular follow-ups. Especially tumors showing neurological symptoms or those which have caused or poses a risk of causing a fracture must be surgically removed. Options, including radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy can be employed before or after surgery depending on the type of tumor.