Spinal cord tumors are serious, but treatable
Your spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that runs through your spine (the bones in your back). Spinal cord tumors, which may or may not be cancerous, can grow at any point along the nerves of your spine and from any cell. Tumors can start in your spinal cord and possibly spread there from other areas of your body.
Spinal cord tumors require expert treatment. Without treatment, they can lead to chronic pain, nerve problems, paralysis or disability. Depending on where tumors are located in your spinal cord, they can even be life-threatening.
Spinal cord tumors can show many different symptoms, including:
- Back pain
- Numbness in your arms or legs
- Trouble walking
- Feeling less heat or cold
- Urinary incontinence
- Bowel incontinence
Advanced treatments reverse spinal cord tumor symptoms
Treatment can reverse or stop effects of spinal cord tumors, especially when combined with physical therapy.
An experienced neurosurgeon will carefully remove your spinal cord tumor through spinal surgery. Your doctor will try to remove as much of the tumor as possible. If it is cancerous and some of the tumor is left, you may have radiation therapy or chemotherapy to shrink it further or to stop it from spreading.
Spinal cord tumors can also be shrunk using stereotactic radiosurgery, a special kind of radiation therapy that uses high-powered X-rays to kill the tumors while sparing the spinal cord. You only need this treatment once to start seeing relief from spinal cord tumor symptoms.
As you recover from surgery or radiation therapy, physical therapists will help you regain motion and relieve pain in your back. Physical therapists can also help you retrain your bladder or bowels if you previously experienced incontinence.