Spinal Tumours

Spinal tumours can occur in any of the regions making up the spinal column. They could arise in the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), lumbosacral (lower back) or even in the spinal cord, roots or vertebrae themselves.
The most common symptoms of spinal tumours are neck and/or back pain. The source of the pain will however be dependent on the specific location of the tumour itself. For example, a neck tumour may cause a loss of sensation in the limbs, whereas a thoracic tumour might affect the chest area. Other symptoms might include;
  • Weakness in muscles
  • Difficulty walking
  • Incontinence
  • Muscle spasms
After a physical examination, it is likely that the patient will undergo a number of imaging studies such as x-rays, CAT and MRI scans. The next step is usually to access a tissue specimen to determine the precise nature of the tumour. The most common method for this is a needle biopsy. The doctor will then decide whether or not surgery is the best option to deal with the tumour.
Spinal tumour surgery will only usually be considered in cases where chemotherapy or radiotherapy have been ruled out as an effective way of treating the tumour.
In some cases a complete removal of the tumour will be necessary although often it is only partially removed in order to relieve pressure on the spinal cord.
Patients can expect to remain in hospital for between 5 and 10 days after spinal tumour surgery. In some cases it could be recommended that the patient stay in a physical rehabilitation hospital to undergo therapy to aid in the recovery of such a major operation.
Total recovery time is largely dependent on the level of complexity of the surgery but can be expected to be between 3-12 months.
As with any tumour, there is a chance of the spinal tumour returning, so your doctor will follow up the surgery with periodic MRI scans.