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Spinal Tumors Surgery

Spinal tumors are growths which develop within the spinal canal or within bones of the spine. These may either be cancerous or noncancerous. Tumors which affect the bones of spinal vertebrae are specifically known as vertebral tumors. Tumors which are found to begin within the spinal cord itself are known as spinal cord tumors. Two main types of tumors which affect the spinal cord include the following: Intramedullary tumor growths begin within the spinal cord & cause tumors like ependymomas or astrocytomas. Extramedullary tumors are found to develop within the supporting network of cells located around the spinal cord. Although these do not begin within the spinal cord in strict sense, these tumors may affect function of the spinal cord by causing compression & other associated problems. Good examples of extramedullary tumors which are found to affect the functioning of spinal cord include neurofibromas, meningiomas & schwannomas.

Spinal Tumors Surgery

Metastasized Spinal Tumors

Tumors from other parts of the body are also found to metastasize or spread to the vertebrae, to supporting network around spinal cord, or in some rare cases to the spinal cord itself. Growths or spinal tumors of any type can cause various neurological problems including pain & paralysis sometimes. These spinal tumors, whether they are cancerous or noncancerous can be life-threatening & cause permanent disability in patients at times. Treatment of spinal tumors may often include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or other types of medications.

Signs & Symptoms of Spinal Tumors

Different kinds of signs & symptoms can develop depending upon the type & location of spinal tumors, especially when tumors grow & affect the spinal cord by surrounding blood vessels or nerves. Signs & symptoms of tumors affecting the spinal cord generally include the following.

  • Back pain which sometimes radiates to other parts of the body.
  • Loss of sensation, especially within arms or legs.
  • Difficulty in walking which sometimes leads to falls.
  • Decrease in sensitivity to heat, cold & pain.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel function.
  • Weakness of muscles may occur in varying degrees & within different parts of the body depending upon which part of the spinal cord or nerves are compressed.

Back pain is one of the most common early symptoms of both cancerous & noncancerous spinal tumors. Pain may however also spread to other areas beyond the back to areas like arms, feet, legs & hips & may later become more sever in spite of treatments. Different spinal tumors progress at a different pace. Generally, cancerous spinal tumors are found to grow more quickly, while noncancerous spinal tumors tend to develop at a slower pace.

Time to Seek Medical Help

There are so many causes of back pain & moreover most back pains are also not caused by spinal tumors. Nevertheless, early diagnosis & treatment are very important in case of spinal tumors & therefore patients must seek immediate medical help in case their back pain resembles the following.

  • Back pain which is progressive & persistent
  • Back pain which is not actively related
  • Back pain which turns worse at night
  • Patients having a history of cancer & who develop newer back pain

Patients must seek immediate medical attention in case they experience the following.

  • Progressive muscle numbness or weakness in arms or legs
  • Changes in bladder or bowel function

Causes of Spinal Tumors

Causes of most primary spinal tumors is however unknown. Nevertheless, some of these may be contributed to exposure to a variety of cancer-causing agents. Spinal cord lymphomas are cancers which affect a type of immune cell called lymphocytes & are more common among people with compromised immune systems. Moreover, there also appears to be high incidence of spinal tumors in particular families & which suggests likelihood of a genetic component involved in the making of spinal tumors.

In a small number of cases it is also found that primary spinal tumors may result from presence of the following two genetic diseases.

  • Neurofibromatosis 2This is a hereditary disorder breeding benign tumors which may develop in the arachnoid layer of the spinal cord or in supporting glial cells. Nevertheless, more common tumors which are associated with neurofibromatosis 2 disorder affects the nerves associated with hearing & can inevitably lead to loss of hearing either in one or both ears.
  • Von Hippel-Lindau DiseaseThis is a rare multi-system disorder which is generally associated with hemangioblastomas or benign blood vessel tumors in the retina, brain & spinal cord & with other types of tumors located within adrenal glands or kidneys.

Types of Spinal Cord Tumors

Tumors of the spinal cord are generally classified according to their location within the spine. Spinal cord basically is a long column of nerve fibers which carry messages to & from the brain. There are three protective membranes called meninges which are wrapped around the entire spinal cord. The tougher outer layer of spinal cord is called dura mater, the middle layer is known as arachnoid membrane & the innermost layer is known as the pia mater. Spinal cord tumors are normally classified as intradural or extradural depending upon the location where they occur in relation to these protective layer membranes of the spinal cord. Intradural spinal tumors are found to occur within the dura matter & these are further divided into the following two subcategories.

  • Extramedullary TumorsThese are spinal tumors which develop outside the spinal cord like in meningiomas within the surrounding dura matter or like schwannomas & neurofibromas within the nerve roots extending out of the spinal cord. However, most of these tumors are noncancerous in nature.
  • Intramedullary TumorsThese spinal tumors are commonly found to begin in supporting cells within the spinal cord. Most of these tumors are either ependymomas or astrocytomas. However, in some rare cases of intramedullary spinal tumors they are found to spread from other parts of the body through the blood stream to the spinal cord.

Risk Factors Associated with Spinal Cord Tumors

Spinal cord tumors are more commonly associated with people in the following categories.

  • Neurofibromatosis 2Noncancerous tumors are found to develop on or near nerves which are related to hearing in people suffering from this type of hereditary disorder. It may therefore also eventually lead to progressive hearing loss in one or both ears. Quite a few people with neurofibromatosis 2 are also found to develop spinal canal tumors which are frequently multiple & of several differing types.
  • Von Hippel-Lindau DiseaseThis is a rare type of multi-system disorder which is associated with noncancerous blood vessel tumors called hemangioblastomas located within retina, brain & spinal cord & with other types of tumors found in kidneys & adrenal glands.
  • People with Prior History of CancerAlthough any type of cancer located anywhere else in the body can travel to the spine region, cancers which are most likely to affect the spinal cord include prostate, lung, breast & multiple myelomas.

Complications Associated with Spinal Tumor Surgery

Both cancerous & noncancerous spinal tumors can compress nerves & the spinal cord & thereby lead to a loss of sensation or movement at & below the level of tumor & at times make changes in bladder & bowel function. Moreover, in some cases this nerve damage may also be permanent. However, in case spinal tumor is detected early & aggressively treated, it may effectively be possible to prevent further loss of function. Coupled with aggressive rehabilitation the patient may also be able to regain nerve function. Tumors, which compress the spinal cord, may at times be life-threatening depending upon the location & compression.

Diagnosing Spinal Cord Tumors

Spinal cord tumors may sometimes be overlooked simply because they are no common & most often their symptoms resemble that those of many other more common conditions. This is exactly the reason as to why it is especially important for doctors to know complete medical history of patients alongside performing both neurological & general physical examinations. In case doctors suspect spinal tumors, one or more of the following tests can help them confirm diagnosis & pinpoint the exact location of the spinal tumor.

Spinal Tumor Diagnosis

  • MRI Scan – Spinal Magnetic Resonance ImagingMRI test makes use of a powerful magnet & radio waves so as to produce images of the spine. MRI can accurately show nerves & the spinal cord in order to yield better pictures of bone tumors than other tests like CT scans can do. Contrast agents which help to highlight certain structures & tissues may also be injected into a vein within the hand or forearm of the patient during this test. Some people however feel claustrophobic inside the MRI scanner or find the loud thumping sound which the machine makes as disturbing. However, to overcome this possibility patients are usually provided earplugs so as to help with noise while some scanners are also equipped with headphones or television in order to overcome claustrophobia. Patients who are still very anxious can ask for a mild sedative which can also help them keep calm during the test. Moreover, general anesthetic may also be necessary in certain cases.
  • CT – Computerized TomographyCT scan test uses a narrow beam of radiation in order to produce detailed images of the patient’s spine. Sometimes this procedure is also combined with an injected contrast dye so as to make abnormal changes so that the spinal cord or spinal canal can be easily seen.
  • BiopsyThis is the only way which can determine precise nature of a vertebral or spinal tumor. Biopsy involves examining a small tissue sample under a microscope. Moreover, biopsy results will help doctors determine ideal treatment options. How these samples can be obtained depending upon the overall health of the patient & the location of tumor. Doctors for this purpose may use a fine needle so as to withdraw small amounts of tumor tissue or otherwise sample may be obtained during the surgical procedure. These procedures however are associated with significant amount of risks & should therefore only be performed at an accredited hospital facility by surgeons who specialize in spinal tumors.

Determining the Stage of Cancerous Spinal Cord Tumors

After the spinal tumor has been confirmed through radiology, the only way left to determine whether this tumor is malignant or benign is to conduct a biopsy which involves examining a small tissue sample under a microscope & which has been extracted using a biopsy procedure. Biopsy will help determine the type of cancer in case the spinal tumor is malignant & which will also confirm as to which treatment option would be most suitable. The staging process classifies the abnormal tissue (neoplasms) according to the extent of tumor by assessing involvement of soft tissue, bone & spinal canal. Doctors for this purpose may order a whole body scan with help of nuclear technology as well as a CT scan of lungs & abdomen for determining the staging of cancer. Doctors will then compare laboratory test findings & results from aforementioned scans to patient’s symptoms so as to confirm diagnosis.

Treatment Procedures for Spinal Tumors

Goal of treatments for spinal tumors is to completely eliminate the tumor. This goal may however be complicated by risk of permanent damage to the spinal cord & nerves surrounding the tumor. Moreover, doctors must also take into account the age & overall health of the patient while choosing the option for treatment. Type of tumor & whether it is arising from structures of the spine or spinal canal or if it has spread to the spine from some other part of the body must also be considered while determining a plan for treatment.

Spinal Tumor Neck Surgery

Treatment options for most spinal tumors include the following.

  • MonitoringQuite a few spinal tumors may be discovered before they can cause any symptoms. Most often this happens when patients are being evaluated for some other health condition. In case these are small tumors which are not growing or pressing on surrounding tissue, they can be carefully watched & monitored & which will be all that is required to do. This is especially true in case of older adults for whom radiation therapy or surgery may pose special risks. However, during observation doctors are most likely to recommend periodic MRI or CT scans so as to monitor the spinal tumor.
  • SurgeryThis is most often the treatment of choice for spinal tumors which can be effectively removed with acceptable risk of nerve injury or spinal cord damage. Moreover, newer techniques & instruments nowadays allow neurosurgeons to reach tumors which were at one time considered inaccessible. High powered microscopes which are now used in microsurgery make it easy for the surgeon to distinguish tumors from healthy tissue. Doctors can nowadays also monitor function of spinal cord & other important nerves during surgery & thereby minimize chances of them being injured. In some cases, very high frequency sound waves may also be used during surgery in order to break up tumors which can be removed in fragments. However, unfortunately even with these latest technological advances in spinal tumor removal surgery, not all kinds of tumors can be completely removed. Therefore, spinal cord tumor removal surgery may be followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy or both, in case the entire tumor cannot be removed through surgical intervention alone. Recovery following spinal tumor removal surgery can take weeks or even months depending upon the type of surgical procedure employed. Some patients may also experience temporary loss of sensation or some other complications including bleeding or damage to nerve tissue after undergoing surgery for removal of spinal tumors.
  • Radiation TherapyThis therapy is ideally used to eliminate remnants of spinal tumors which remain following surgery & to treat inoperable tumors or to treat spinal tumors where surgery can be too risky. Radiation therapy may also be the first line of treatment for cancerous tumors which travel to spine region from other areas of the body (metastatic tumors). Radiation therapy can also be used to relieve pain or in cases when surgery poses too great a risk. There also are some medications which can help ease some side effects of radiation surgery like vomiting & nausea. Radiation therapy team may also be able to modify treatment plan depending upon the type of tumor in order to help prevent damage to surrounding tissue from radiation & thereby improve effectiveness of treatment. These modifications may range from simple changes in dosage of radiation to use of sophisticated techniques like 3-D conformal radiation therapy. Another specialized type of radiation therapy known as proton beam therapy can also be effectively used to treat some vertebral tumors like chondromas & chondrosarcomas, & some childhood associated cancers in cases where spinal radiation is required.
  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)This method of radiation therapy is capable of delivering high doses of precisely targeted radiation. Doctors use computers so as to focus radiation beams on spinal tumors in SRS with pinpoint accuracy & from multiple angles. Different types of technologies are involved in radiosurgery meant to stereotactically deliver radiation to treat spinal tumors like the GammaKnife machine for one. But then SRS entails certain limits on specific type & size of tumors which can be treated. Nevertheless, it has proved to be quite effective where appropriate & growing research emphatically supports use of SRS treatment for spinal & vertebral tumors. However, further study is required so as to determine the choice of the best technique, dose of radiation & schedule for SRS sessions in treatment of spinal tumors.
  • ChemotherapyThis is a standard treatment therapy for many types of cancers including spinal tumors. Chemotherapy utilizes medications so as to destroy cancerous cells or to stop them from growing further. Doctors can ideally determine whether chemotherapy can be beneficial in a case, either applied alone or in combination along with radiation therapy. Side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, fatigue, vomiting, hair loss & increased risk of infections.
  • Other DrugsDoctors at times prescribe corticosteroids either during radiation treatment or after surgery in order to reduce swelling, since surgery, radiation therapy & tumors themselves can cause inflammation inside the spinal cord. Although corticosteroids are good at reducing inflammation, they are most often used only for short periods of time so as to avoid development of serious side effects like muscle weakness, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis & increased susceptibility to infection.

Recovery Following Spinal Tumor Surgery

Typical hospital stays following surgery for removal of spinal tumors range between 2 – 14 days depending upon individual cases. Requirement of post-surgical physical rehabilitation in some cases may involve staying within a rehabilitation center for a period of time. In many other cases, patients may undergo physical therapy at an outpatient facility or even at home. However, total time for recovery post surgery may be as short as 3 months or as long as 12 months depending upon the complexity of spinal tumor surgery & overall health of the patient.

Spinal Tumor Surgery Outcome

Outcome of spinal tumor surgery greatly depends upon overall health & age of the patient & whether the spinal tumor is malignant or benign & primary or metastatic. However, in case of primary tumors, goal of surgery is to remove the entire tumor & optimally leading to potential cure of malignancy. In case of metastatic tumors, goal is invariably palliative with treatment aiming to provide improved quality of life along with a possible prolonged life expectancy to spinal tumor surgery patients.

Alternative Medicine for Spinal Tumors

Although there are no alternative medicines which have proven to cure cancer, there however are some complementary or alternative treatments that can help relieve some symptoms. One such alternative treatment is acupuncture where a practitioner inserts tiny needles into the skin at precise points as part of the procedure. Research also shows that acupuncture may be helpful in relieving vomiting & nausea in cancer patients. Acupuncture is also found to relieve certain types of pain in people suffering with cancer. However, patients with spinal tumors must make sure to discuss risks & benefits of alternative or complimentary treatments they intend to try with their doctors. Some other alternative treatments like herbal remedies can also interfere with medications that patients with spinal tumors are taking.

Affordable Treatments for Spinal Tumors in India

Over the past few decades, India has emerged as one of the most favorite global medical tourism destinations in the world providing a wide variety of healthcare solutions to international patients at reasonable costs. Factors contributing to this phenomenal rise include the rising cost of healthcare around the countries in the world, large pool of specialized doctors & surgeons available in the country, extensive healthcare infrastructure involving several nationally & internationally accredited hospital facilities, English speaking professional nurses & technical staff, comparatively low cost of medical treatment procedures, easy availability of medical visas & convenient access to medical procedures including surgery without any waiting periods.

Low Cost Spinal Tumor Surgery with IndianMedTrip

IndianMedTrip is a globally reputed healthcare tourism company which is based in South Asia. Associated with the top surgeons & the best nationally & internationally accredited hospitals in the country, they are well placed so as to provide a variety of medical solutions to international patients. Apart from delivering excellent services, most of their package deals are some of the best any patient can expect. Seamless services offered by IndianMedTrip begin with the first telephonic conversation with the patient. After understanding the patient’s requirements, the company will move on to identifying the top surgeon & the most ideal hospital facility where the patient can undergo treatment. Other services offered by IndianMedTrip include assisting the patient & his accomplice obtain medical visas, warm reception at airport on arrival for treatment, convenient options for local transportation, comfortable stays at budget hotels, luxury hotels or in serviced apartments as decided by the patient, scheduled appointments with doctors or surgeons for medical procedures without any waiting period, choice of availing a exotic recuperative holiday at reasonable costs, follow-up evaluation checks with the operating doctor & a heartfelt successful sendoff to the patient at the airport when he is heading back home.

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