Small tumors may not cause any health problems. Larger tumors may press on or affect nearby nerves or blood vessels. The most common health problem is back pain that was not caused by an injury. The pain may get worse over time and spread to the hips, legs or arms.
Other health problems will depend on the area of the tumor. You may have:
Inability to sense cold, heat, or pain in legs, arms, or chest
Loss of muscle strength in legs, arms, or chest
Problems using your arms and legs for basic tasks like walking
After the tumor is confirmed, a biopsy may be done. A small piece of the tumor will be removed and tested to find out if it is cancer.
The biopsy and additional pictures will help your doctor learn more about the tumor. Staging helps describe cancer. It may uncover the size of the tumor and whether it has spread. Staging will help your doctor make the most effective plan.
Treatment will depend on the type of tumor and where it is. You may have:
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms, such as pill, injection, and catheter. The drugs travel through the bloodstream to kill cancer cells, but some healthy cells are also killed.
It may be used as the only treatment or with other treatments such as surgery.
Radiation therapy is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells or shrink the tumor. It may be able to reduce the size of the tumor. This may be a cure or will decrease symptoms. Radiation may also be used to shrink the tumor before surgery.
There are many forms of radiation. The one you have depends on the location of the tumor and goals of treatment. The goal is to send the right amount of radiation to the tumor without harming too many of the nearby healthy cells.
Surgery is not an option for all. The site and size of the tumor and its progress will all be considered before surgery. Surgery may be done as:
Cure for cancer if the cancer started in spine
Part of cancer treatment with chemotherapy or radiation
Treatment to try to ease pain or disability
Treatment for tumors that do not get better with chemotherapy or radiation
Benign tumors that are not causing symptoms, or have mild symptoms, may not need treatment. The tumor will be monitored to look for any changes.
Spinal tumors. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Spinal%20Tumors.aspx. Accessed July 20, 2018.
Spinal cord tumor. University of California San Francisco Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/spinal_cord_tumor/. Accessed July 20, 2018.
Spinal tumors. University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center website. Available at: http://www.mdanderson.org/patient-and-cancer-information/cancer-information/cancer-types/spinal-tumors/index.html. Accessed July 20, 2018.
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