FAQs

Spinal Cancer: FAQs

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Most SCT are benign or slow growing tumors. Malignant tumors account for less than 10% of all these tumors. Once the diagnosis is made, you should see a neurosurgeon who specializes in these tumors. Most tumors are amenable to surgery and adjuvant radiation and chemotherapy are withheld.

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The only treatment for these tumors is a laminectomy (removal of the bone) and an attempt for a radical or gross total resection. Biopsy of these tumors is not justified unless the differential diagnosis is not conclusive.

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Since the majority of these tumors are slow growing or benign, treatment is not urgent for the majority of cases. One should research a center or surgeon who specializes or performs frequent operations. A cause for urgency is when the symptoms such as motor weakness or pain are rapidly worsening.

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Yes, this is operation can be risky but at most centers who perform surgery in these region the risks are minimal.

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At this time research is in spinal cord regeneration following injury. For SCT there is no medical therapy that will treat these tumors.

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Spinal cord tumors are similar to brain tumors. Both arise from the central nervous system. Both areas have similar tumors

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The role of radiotherapy should only be reserved for tumors which are malignant or those tumors which are not surgically operable. This accounts for very few tumors. Radiography should not be administered for intramedullary ependymomas.

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Depending upon your functional status prior to surgery, most patients remain the same or get slightly worse for a temporary period of time. However, the majority of patients 2/3 to 3/4 will stay the same or improve in function following surgery.

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It is quite unusual for spinal cord tumors to recur. Ependymomas usually do not recur. Astrocytomas or gangliogliomas can recur. This accounts for a small percentage of all tumors. The chance for recurrence can be 30% in 10 years.

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Unless malignant most spinal cord tumors do not spread or seed within the central nervous system or in the body.

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Spinal cord tumors are relatively uncommon and account for around 1/1,000,000 individuals per year

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Most of the pain before surgery should improve with the operation. However following surgery some patients develop new numbness or tingling pain which sometimes is worse than the pain before surgery. These type of burning sensation is more common following epemdymomas than astrocytomas. It will subside over several months, but some patients may require medicine to help control this type of pain.

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The central pain is described as being hypersensitive or burning type pain. It more commonly occurs in patients with ependymomas. There are several medications which help this type of pain and research in spinal stimulation for severe pain.

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No one is certain the cause of spinal cord tumors. There is an association of spinal cord tumors with neurofibromatosis.

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You need to speak to several surgeons and see how many procedures they have performed in this region.

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There is no special preparation necessary except to have an optimistic outlook and intense physical therapy.

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There are resources for patients with no insurance. You should talk to social workers in your area.

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Most HMOs will allow to go you to go out of network to see an expert. It will take several letters from your primary physician and out of network surgeon.

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MRI should be done at 3 months,6 months and then annual for several years and then biannual or every three years but it depends upon histology and extent of resection.

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Intramedullary are tumors which arise from the spinal cord tissue itself. Extramedullary tumors are those tumors which arise outside of the spinal cord from nerves or coverings and push or compress the spinal cord.

Intramedullary: Astrocytomas, Gangliogliomas, Cavernomas, Hemangioblastomas, Ependymomas.

Extramedullary: Meningiomas, Schwannomas, Neurofibromas and other bone tumors

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Cysts are present in 50­70% of all spinal cord tumors. Once the tumor is removed the cyst should decompress. Some patients may have some problems from the cyst re­accumulation however this is quite small.

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The long term outcome is good to excellent.

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The research for Spine Cord Tumors is about new surgical techniques only.

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Sometimes it will but others it will not.

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Although most SCT are benign the only way for certainity is the microscopic examination by a pathologist after the tumor is removed.

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Since most tumors are benign the only treatments necessary is physical and occupation therapy.

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These treatments are started in the hospital and then may continue as an outpatient or inpatient program.

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In most cases the patients are out of bed in 1­2 days and then ambulating with assistance by day 3 or 4. Aside from the pain, the limitations vary from one person to another.

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Surgery should not affect your respirations unless the tumor is located high in the cervical spine. In these cases there is a small chance of some respiratory compromise.

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There are no limitations or precautions following removal of the vertebrae. However, in very young patients and particularly children there is a concern for progression of a spinal deformity which needs to be monitored.