As the technology surrounding surgical procedures advances, spine surgeons are able to perform life-saving surgeries by removing spinal tumors.
In 2007, surgeons in New York saved the life of a nine month old boy who suffered from a tumor that went through the child's spinal column, around his abdomen, past his diaphragm, and around his kidney. Part of the tumor compressed his spinal column, threatening the use of his legs.
Doctors removed the cancer along with some vertebrae that were infected with cancerous cells. After the surgery, the boy needed the aid of a back brace, but he was able to walk again within a year.
In 2009, a twenty-three year old gymnast discovered suffered multiple falls before doctor's discovered a five inch long benign tumor in her spine. Without surgery, she faced the possibility of becoming a quadriplegic without the ability to breathe on her own.
Doctors at the University of California San Francisco performed the surgery, which saved the girl's life.
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANAS) estimates that between 30 to 70 percent of all cancer patients will experience the cancer spreading to the spine. They also caution that tumors in children are especially to treat since children have not reached full maturity of the spine.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the type of surgery for spinal tumors depends on the type of tumor involved. Meningioma tumors (a type of tumor found in the Central Nervous System) near the spinal cord can be removed and many times cured by surgical procedure. Ependymoma, however, cannot be completely removed and often radiation will be required following surgery. Ependymoma are most commonly found in the spinal column in adults, and in the brain in children.
Like other forms of cancer, spinal tumors can be either malignant or benign. And they can begin either locally in the spine or metastasize (begin in other parts of the body and spread to the spine) where they often compress the spinal cord and its nerves.
The ACS estimates that each year, about 22, 910 people will be diagnosed with malignant tumors of the brain or spinal cord. And of those cases, approximately only 13,700 will die from those tumors thanks to the efforts of medical professionals like those at Spinehealth.com
Symptoms of spinal cord tumors often include numbness, weakness or lack of coordination in the arms and legs. If the patient experiences any of these, symptoms, a doctor may order an MRI or CT scan to look for tumors in the spinal area. Unlike brain tumors, which often affect one side of the body, spinal tumors will affect both sides of the body. If a tumor is detected, the doctor may order a biopsy, lumbar puncture (spinal tap), or bone marrow aspiration.
The AANS states that many tumors are inherently radio resistant, and as a result will not respond to radiological therapy. In these cases, a patent's only course of treatment is surgery.
The recovery period following surgery for spinal tumors is 5-10 days, depending on the patient's needs. Overall recovery is typically between one and three months.