Spinal tumor surgery can seem like a complicated process to understand. However, doing research and consulting with a qualified medical professional will allow you to become educated with the procedure and make you feel more confident about the road ahead.
What are Spinal Tumors?
Spinal tumors (benign and malignant) are an infrequent and uncommon cause of back pain. The most common symptom of a spinal tumor is constant, non-mechanical back or neck pain that is unrelated to any physical activity and is not alleviated by rest.
Other Symptoms May Include:
- Paraparesis (slight paralysis)
- Spinal deformities and/or fever
Common Types of Primary Benign Tumors Include:
- Giant Cell Tumor (GCT)
- Osteoid Osteoma Aneurysmal Bone Cyst (ABC)
- Osteoblastoma Hemangioma
There Are Also a Wide Variety of Primary Malignant Tumors That Include:
- Multiple Myeloma
- Ewing’s Sarcoma
Causes of Spinal Tumors:
Spinal tumors are typically caused by abnormal regulation of cell division. This type of cell abnormality causes cells to divide and grow at an aggressive and out of control rate. Researchers are not sure of what causes the cells to grow abnormally in primary spinal tumors. In some cases, it could be related to chemical or radiation exposure. In other cases, it could be related to genetics.
Spinal tumors can also be caused by cancer that has spread from other areas of the body. While it is still unclear how cancer is spread, an estimated one in 100,000 people receives a diagnosis of a spinal tumor every year. Any cancer can spread to the spine, but the most frequent types are lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, thyroid cancer, and kidney cancer. Any patient with a history of cancer that develops severe back pain should have a workup that excludes the possibility of a metastatic spinal tumor.
Surgery for Spinal Tumors:
Surgery may be recommended to remove a benign or malignant tumor in order to reduce its size, reduce neck/back pain, dysfunction of the bowel and/or bladder, balance problems and difficulty walking. Determining whether or not a patient is a good candidate for spinal surgery and when the surgery will be performed is dependent on many factors, such as:
- Type of Spinal Tumor (Benign or Malignant)
- Stage of the Tumor
- Location & Size of the Tumor
- Bladder or Bowel Dysfunction
- Neurologic Deficit (Nerve Compression or Spinal Cord)
- Vertebral Fracture, Spinal Instability or Destruction of the Vertebral Bone
- Health, Immunity and Infection Risk Factors for the Patient
- Persistent Pain that has not responded to Non-Surgical Therapy and/or Solutions
Depending on the type of spinal tumor and its location, surgery may include one of the following procedures:
- Kyphoplasty Vertebroplasty Radiosurgery (CyberKnife)
- Decompression Embolization
- Spinal Stabilization
The Ultimate Goals of Spinal Surgery Include:
- Reducing Pain
- Spinal Stabilization
- Improving Quality of Life
- Spinal Tumor Removal
Recovery from spinal tumor surgery is just as important as the operation itself. Most patients will need some type of rehabilitation following surgery. Complete recovery from a spinal tumor procedure will vary based on a number of factors, such as what originally caused the neurological problem. However, the timetable for recovery from the actual surgical procedure typically lasts a standard three to four weeks no matter the type of tumor.
Depending on the extent of the surgical procedure, some patients will be transferred directly to a rehab center from the hospital and others will go on an outpatient basis. Certain treatments may also be prescribed as a part of continued care. In the case of a malignant spinal tumor, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may be recommended.