Spinal cord and spinal cancer
spinal cord is part of the central nervous system, and extends as a column of nerve tissue from the base of the brain to the lower back. Carries important messages from the brain to the rest of the body. Spinal cancer is formed when abnormal cells grow out of control in the spinal cord, bones, tissues, fluids or nerves that make up them, forming a tumor.
Spinal cancer affects about one in 140 men and one in 180 women, making it a relatively rare disease. Some genetic disorders increase the risk of spinal cancer, as well as the immune system, radiation therapy and some industrial chemicals. While most cancers are phased down, spinal cancer is classified by grading systems because these tumors rarely spread outside the central nervous system.
Underlying spinal cancer develops from cells inside the spinal cord or from surrounding structures (bones, tissues, fluids or nerves in the spine).
The disease that is prevalent in the central nervous system occurs more frequently, with it estimated to occur about 10 times as often as primary tumors.
How spinal cord cancer develops
The brain and spinal cord form together the central nervous system. Cancer can begin in the central nervous system or, more commonly, it can spread there.
Primary spinal tumors are tumors consisting of cells within the spinal cord itself or from the surrounding structures. Most spinal tumors are metastatic tumors, spread to the spine from elsewhere in the body.
Risk factors for spinal cancer
The causes of spinal tumors remain largely unknown. Although some genetic conditions may contribute to the development of spinal cancer, risk factors are less specific to spinal cancer than other cancers in the body. Known risk factors include:
- History of cancer: Cancers that are likely to spread to the spine include breast, lung and prostate cancer, as well as multiple myeloma.
- Weakened immune system: Some people whose immune systems are weak develop myeloma.
- Genetic disorders: Von Hebel Lindau disease and neurofibromatosis are inherited conditions sometimes associated with tumors in the spinal cord.
- Exposure to radiation: Exposure to radiation therapy or industrial chemicals may increase the likelihood of developing spinal cancer.
Symptoms of spinal cancer
Symptoms of spinal cancer depend on several factors, including the type, size and location of the tumor, as well as the patient’s age and health history. Some common symptoms of spinal cancer include pain, numbness, weakness and difficulty urinating.
Symptoms of spinal cancer may occur very slowly. Other times, it spoke quickly, even over hours or days. Diffuse spinal tumors, which spread to the spine from elsewhere in the body, such as the prostate or kidneys, often develop rapidly.
When the tumor presses on the spinal cord, symptoms may begin with numbness or tingling in the arms or legs. After that, patients may experience lethargy, lack of knowledge of where their feet are. As the disease progresses, the symptoms of spinal cancer may grow to include weakness, inability to move the legs, and eventually paralysis.
Some common signs of spinal tumors may include:
- Pain (back and/or neck pain, arm and/or leg pain)
- Muscle weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
- Difficulty walking
- Loss of general sensation
- Difficulty urinating (incontinence)
- Change in bowel habits (retention)
- Paralysis to varying degrees
- Spinal deformities
- Pain or difficulty standing
Types of spinal cancer
Each patient with spinal cancer varies and spinal tumors are classified according to their location on the spine. Most spinal tumors are metastatic tumors, spread to the spine from elsewhere in the body, such as the breast, prostate or kidneys.
Apart from spinal cord or spinal tumors, cancer can begin or spread to other areas of the central nervous system, such as the brain and peripheral nerves.
Primary brain cancer develops in brain cells. Primary brain tumors are rare. Metastatic brain cancer, or cancer that has spread to the brain from elsewhere in the body, is more common.
Diagnosis of spinal cancer
The comprehensive spinal cancer treatment plan begins with a careful diagnosis. Cancer experts use a variety of imaging techniques and tools designed to diagnose spinal cancer. Once a thorough diagnosis of spinal cancer has been made and the location, type and degree of the tumor are determined, experts will formulate a treatment plan tailored to the patient’s needs, preferences and objectives. Due to the complications of spinal tumors, treatment must be based on a custom individual approach.
During an angiogram for spinal cancer, X-rays obtain detailed 3D images of the blood vessels supplying the spine. This test may be used to plan the surgical removal of a tumor near an area of many blood vessels. Sometimes this test is used to enclose or block the blood vessels supplying the tumor before surgery.
Lumbar puncture (also called a spinal tap) is a procedure in which a needle is inserted into the lower part of the spine to remove cerebrospinal fluid or inject the drug. Doctors may use lumbar puncture to collect a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for laboratory examination. It can also be used to inject medications, such as spinal anesthesia or chemotherapy drugs.
Bone examination and nuclear medicine
Bone tests in nuclear medicine involve injecting a small dose of radioactive material into the blood vessels, where they travel through the bloodstream, gather in the bones and are detected by a scanner through x-rays. By taking pictures of bones on a computer screen or film, a bone examination may reveal nuclear medicine if spinal cancer spreads to the bones, as well as the location of the cancer.
Other imaging tests
Imaging tests for spinal cancer produce images of the spine to determine the location and degree of spinal tumors. Contrast dye can be used to highlight the spinal cord and nerve structures. Other imaging tests used to diagnose spinal cancer include:
- CT scan
Spinal cancer treatments
Spinal cancer treatments vary depending on a number of factors, including the type, stage and location of the disease. Common treatments include:
In the past, surgeries to treat spinal tumors were relatively large. With technological advances, many of these surgeries are performed in a minimally invasive manner. Minimally invasive spinal surgery allows you to return to normal activities more quickly, with less pain. This also allows the patient to maintain the patient’s nutritional health and return to treatment faster.
Oncologists treat primary and metastatic spinal cancer through a well-thought-out and specific approach, selecting chemotherapy drugs for spinal cancer and sending treatment to the body based on the patient’s individual needs.
Chemotherapy drugs can be administered orally in tablet form or injected into a vein. For some spinal tumors, medications can be given directly into the cerebrospinal fluid. The patient may receive chemotherapy alone, or in conjunction with other treatments for spinal cancer, such as surgery and/or radiation therapy.
Treatment of chemotherapy side effects of spinal cancer
Chemotherapy aims to divide cancer cells quickly. However, some healthy cells in the body also divide rapidly, such as those found in the hair follicles, mouth, stomach and bone marrow. When medications damage these healthy cells, the side effects of chemotherapy may lead to:
- Hair loss
- Increased risk of infection (from low white blood cell count)
- Fatigue (from low red blood cell count)
- Bruises and bleeding easily (from low platelet count)
Supportive care treatments such as nutrition therapy, physiotherapy support, pain management and tumor rehabilitation may help reduce the side effects associated with chemotherapy and maintain the patient’s strength so that he or she can maintain as good quality as possible during treatment.
Radiation therapy for spinal cancer is commonly used after surgical removal of the tumor, to destroy abandoned microscopic tumor cells. It may also be an option for metastatic spinal tumors (tumors that have spread to the spine of another part of the body).
The details of the radiation system will depend on several factors, including the type, size and extent of the disease. External radiation therapy for spinal cancer is commonly used. The radioactive area usually includes a tumor and an area surrounding the tumor. For diffuse spinal tumors, radiation is sometimes given to the entire spine.
Treatment of side effects of spinal cancer treatment
Depending on the dose of radiation, location and other factors, you may experience some side effects of radiation therapy, including fatigue, hair loss, skin irritation and nerve damage.
To reduce the side effects of radiation and help the patient maintain his strength and quality of life. Your doctor may prescribe steroids to help reduce swelling, or blood thinners to dissolve blood clots and prevent them from reaching the lungs.
With interventional radiology, doctors can visualize tumors and perform photo-guided interventions in real time. This enables the taking of biopsies, the provision of direct treatment for tumors, the provision of analgesic therapy, and the monitoring of the patient’s response to treatment.
Chiropractic is an example of minimally invasive procedures used to treat compression fractures in the spinal vertebrae caused by spinal cancer. Compression vertebral fractures can cause severe back pain, spinal deformity and loss of length. Doctors may perform vertebrae reconstruction to reconstruct cracked or collapsed vertebrae.
Vertebrae repair include a short time of surgery and healing, and may help in:
- Pain relief
- Restore length
- Strengthening the paragraph
- Reducing spinal deformity
- Stability of fractures
Targeted treatment for spinal cancer targets specific pathways or abnormalities in spinal tumor cells involved in tumor growth. Targeted treatment is likely to be combined with other spinal cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. This treatment is often an option for spinal cancer patients who have tumor recurrence after previous spinal cancer treatments.
One type of targeted treatment used for spinal tumors is monoclonal antibodies, which stop the formation of new blood vessels that the tumor needs to grow (a process known as vascular formation).
Side effects of targeted treatment of spinal cancer
Targeted treatment can cause side effects, such as low hemoglobin, fatigue, mouth ulcers, nausea, diarrhea, high blood pressure and fluid buildup (usually in the legs). Throughout the treatment of spinal cancer.