Did you know that 90 percent of spine tumors are resultant of metastatic cancer having origin from different parts of the body?
The best way to avoid the spinar tumor is to diagnose cancer and treat them on as soon as possible basis. However, in the rest of 10 percent of the cases, the origin of the tumor is the spine itself.
The spine, being a very critical part of the body not just for stability but also for carrying the signals from the brain to the rest of the body parts, should be handled skillfully. Spinal Tumour, if not treated well in time, can impact the quality of life drastically including unbearable pain, damaged spine, loss of stability, and compressed nerves.
You should take action fast and get it removed from a skilled spine surgeon in a hospital which has the capability to manage complexities in case it arises.
The right treatment at right time by the right doctor at the right place can make you live a very normal life and allow you to fulfill your life dreams.
Let’s understand from the experience of Cynthia, from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Cynthia is a 34-year-old woman who works as an air hostess in a reputed airline company. Cynthia is married and has a very caring husband Eric.
Three years back, Cynthia started feeling neck pain. She took it lightly assuming that it’s just a tight muscle in his neck due to sleeping on an improper pillow during her travel. A few days later, Cynthia consulted her family doctor who prescribed muscle relaxants and pain killers. However, the discomfort in the neck persisted. After two weeks the pain become unbearable and Cynthia had to be admitted to the hospital.
The doctor did the MRI and the spine tumor was diagnosed, The doctor informed her with a caution that If not treated early, the spine tumor can cause extreme pain, can damage the nerve or spinal cord, and eventually can result in paralysis.
The doctor’s words scared Cynthia and Eric. The doctor also suggested consulting a neuro-spine surgeon for a further line of treatment.
Eric calmed Cynthia and decided to go for the best treatment. Eric started his research on the best neurosurgeons and advanced treatments. He also visited the MedicoExperts website and left the inquiry. The MedicoExperts team got in touch with Eric, collected all the reports, and arranged the video consultation with the one of impaneled Neuorsurgeonn having most of his experience on Spinal surgery. The doctor explained the treatment protocol including stereotactic spine radiosurgery, which is a non-invasive surgery. He also cleared all the doubts of Cynthia and Eric.
Eric and Cynthia understood every aspect of the treatment and decided to come to India for the treatment.
After 10 days, Cynthia and Eric landed in India for treatment, and Cynthia was admitted to the hospital on the same day. A pre-evaluation test was performed. The complete evaluation surprisingly revealed that Cynthia had lung cancer that was spread to her spine and created a tumor.
The detection of lung cancer turned out to be another big shock for Cynthia and Eric. The tumor board, a team of oncologists, explained the changes in the treatment protocol to control the spread of cancer to Eric and Cynthia and started the treatment with their consent.
Few weeks of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the doctor did stereotactic spinal radiosurgery to remove the tumor. Cynthia responded very well to the treatment and showed significant recovery. Two months later, an MRI scan showed Cynthia’s spine tumor had stopped growing and was even a tiny bit smaller.
Currently, with the neck pain gone, Cynthia is back to his normal work.
Cynthia and her husband were very happy with the outcome of the treatment and thanked the doctor and MedicoExperts team.
This can be your story as well to win the battle against spinal cord tumors even if you have a complex spinal cord tumor. What you need is the right guidance, right treatment at the right time from the right experts.
Before we move ahead with spinal cord tumor symptoms, spinal cord tumor treatment, and survival rates, let’s understand what spinal cord tumor is.
What is the spinal cord?
The spinal cord is an extension of the brain, which is protected by the bony vertebral column. The spinal cord contains numerous nerve bundles that play an essential role in carrying messages to and from the brain to different body parts.
Any abnormal outgrowth or tumor on or around the spinal cord can affect the effective communication between the brain and the spinal cord.
The spinal cord has a narrow passage. Sometimes, the narrow passage of the spinal tumor can restrict the blood supply or block the nerve signals of the spinal cord.
What is a spinal cord tumor?
A spinal cord tumor develops due to abnormal growth of the spinal cord cells or spines in an uncoordinated and uncontrolled manner.
The spinal tumors can be:
- Benign or non-cancerous, or
- Malignant or cancerous
Apart from being cancerous and non-cancerous spinal tumor can be:
Primary tumor: Primary spinal tumor originates in the spine or the spinal cord.
Secondary or metastatic tumor: Secondary spinal tumor develops when the cancer cells metastasize or spread from one part of the body to the spinal cord or the spines.
What is the difference between cancerous and non-cancerous spinal cord tumors?
Spinal cord tumor results from uncoordinated and uncontrolled growth of the nerve cells, sometimes cells present in the vertebral column.
In a few people with spinal cord tumors, the abnormal nerve cell growth is rapid, while in a few people, it is slow.
Generally, cancerous spinal tumors multiply and spread rapidly. Whereas the cells of non-cancerous spinal tumors multiply slowly. Non-cancerous spinal tumors do not spread to other parts of the body.
What are the different types of spinal cord tumors?
Spinal tumors are divided into different types based on the location of the spine -cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacrum.
Based on the location of the tumor in the spine, the spinal tumors are divided into:
Intradural-extramedullary origin spinal cord tumor is the second most common type of spinal tumor.
Around 40% of spinal tumors originate in the extradural-extramedullary part of the spine. The outer covering of the spinal cord or the dura forms this part of the spinal cord.
The most common of these types of tumors affecting this area are:
- Neurofibroma, and
Spinal tumors with Intramedullary origin are rare.
The inner part of the spinal cord forms the intramedullary area.
Typically, intramedullary origin tumors develop from the glial or ependymal cells.
Ependymoma and astrocytoma are the most common intramedullary origin spinal cord tumors.
The part of the spinal cord extending outside the dura forms the extradural space. Around 55% of spinal cord tumors originate in the extradural space.
Generally, intramedullary and intramedullary- extradural origin spinal tumors are non-cancerous.
What are the symptoms of spinal tumors?
Regardless of the location spinal cord tumor causes the following symptoms:
- Weakness sometimes causes a lack of coordination in the arms and legs
- Difficulty in controlling urine and bowel movement
- Muscle weakness
- Reduced sensitivity to thermal stimulus
Who is at risk of developing spinal cord tumors?
Primary spinal cord tumors can develop in anyone, but the overall risk of developing spinal cord tumors is minimal. The people at elevated risk of developing spinal cord include:
- Men are at higher risk of developing spinal cord tumors than women.
- Middle-aged and older adults are more prone to develop spinal cord tumor
- Children below nine years are at risk of developing spinal cord tumor
- People having a family or personal history of cancer
- Persons exposed to hazardous gasses or radiation.
What causes spinal cord tumors?
Researchers have not been able to ascertain the exact cause of primary spinal tumors. However, the possible causes for spinal tumor include:
- Infection from certain viruses
- Some genetic disorders
- Exposure to certain hazardous gasses and chemicals
- Prolonged exposure to radiation and harmful rays
- Compromised immune system
How to diagnose spinal cord tumors?
If your doctor suspects a spinal cord tumor, he may advise a few tests, which may include:
During the neurological examination, your doctor checks for your body reflexes. Sometimes, the doctor may also check your muscle strength.
Apart from checking the reflexes, your doctor may also check your vision, muscle coordination, and balance during the neurological examination.
With the help of diagnostic imaging, your doctor can get a detailed view of the structures inside the body and about any abnormal outgrowth. With the help of diagnostic imaging techniques, your doctor can get a clear picture of the tumor type, and the best treatment options.
The various diagnostic imaging techniques used by doctors include:
- Computed Tomography (CT scan): CT scans help detect calcium build-up on the spinal cord. The calcium build-up on the spine can harden and develop into a tumor.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI scan is the gold standard for detecting spinal tumors. MRI scans are more sensitive than CT scans. With the help of your MRI scan reports, your doctor can get detailed information about blood flow around the outgrowth and tumor cell density.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan: During a PET scan, the radiologist radioactive laced glucose is injected into the body. Once this radioactive laced glucose enters the bloodstream the doctor traces and measures the radioactive laced glucose consumption by your brain -sugar is used by the brain for providing energy. The area with malignant tissue appears brighter in the scan because malignant tissues use more glucose than normal tissue.
- Angiography (or arteriogram): During angiography, a dye is injected into a major blood vessel. Once the dye is injected a series of X-rays is taken, while the dye flows through your brain. The angiography test helps your doctor to distinguish certain types of tumors.
A lumbar puncture helps detect cancer cells present in the cerebrospinal fluid. The lumbar puncture is a safe procedure, still, doctors do not advise lumbar puncture until they have your CT or MRI scan reports.
Your doctor may advise you to do a routine blood test to keep a count of your blood cells. Also, your doctor may advise you for a kidney and liver function test to ensure that your organs are functioning efficiently.
What are the different grades of spinal cord tumors?
Spinal cord tumor affects around 20% of people. The different grades of spinal cord tumors show the extent of the spread and growth of the spinal tumor.
The spinal cord tumors are broadly divided into Grade I (the least aggressive), Grade II, Grade III, and Grade IV (the most aggressive). For your better understanding here, are a few features associated with different grades of spinal cord tumor:
- Usually benign or non-cancerous
- The tumor grows slowly during this stage
- No change in the structure of the cell
- Have good prognosis
- During this stage, the spinal cord tumor grows at a slow speed
- The structure of the tumor cells starts to change
- Cancer begins to spread in the neighboring structures
- The cells-structure becomes abnormal
- The cancerous cells begin dividing at a high speed
- Cancerous spinal cord cells begin to infiltrate the neighboring structures
- Very aggressive
- The cancer cells multiply abnormally fast
- Infiltrate to other parts
- The cell loses its structure completely
- Angiogenesis or new blood vessels forms around the tumor to provide nutrition
What is spinal cord tumor staging?
Spinal cord tumor staging helps the doctor determine the extent of the spread of spinal cord cancer. If the spinal cord tumor is secondary, staging is essential. However, staging is not required for primary spinal tumor staging is not required, because primary spinal cord tumors do not metastasize beyond the nervous system.
How to choose the best neurosurgeon for your spinal cord tumor treatment?
We know choosing the right neurosurgeon for your spinal tumor surgery can sometimes be tedious. While it is common to prefer a neurosurgeon based on his years of experience, does only years of experience make a neurosurgeon an ideal?
Well! We believe that an ideal neurosurgeon for your spinal tumor surgery would be someone with multiple years of experience in which the neurosurgeon has handled a couple of thousand cases having a success rate greater than 75%.
Additionally, you must ensure that the doctor is well-trained and the hospital is well-equipped with the latest surgical equipment.
How to choose the best hospital and best country for spinal cord tumor surgery?
Did you know that spinal cord tumor surgeries are one the complex surgeries that need an experienced neurosurgeon? Apart from an experienced neurosurgeon the surgery also requires excellent imaging techniques, advanced technologies, and well-trained support staff which together ensures the success of the treatment.
While western countries like the UK and USA have the best neurosurgery hospitals that offer you world-class facilities but the treatment may cost you a fortune.
Whereas, the cost of treatments for spinal cord tumor surgeries in India is around 40 – 50% of the cost in the USA, the UK, or other developed nations.
The affordable prices and world-class treatment facilities provided by Indian hospitals have attracted many people globally to come to India for their treatment.
What are the different treatment options available for spinal cord tumors in India?
Several treatments are available for the treatment of spinal cord tumors in India like:
Surgery is the most common approach to remove the primary spinal cord tumor cells. Doctors generally avoid surgery in people with metastatic spinal cord cancer.
However, in people with spinal cord compression, the doctors may suggest surgery despite them having metastatic cancer.
This surgery is to remove the entire tumor or part of it done depending upon several factors, the spinal tumor can be debunked (make smaller), excised (complete removal), or resected (partial removal). These types of procedures decompress or relieve pressure to the spinal cord and nerve roots, thereby helping to reduce pain and other symptoms.
An interventional technique, usually performed by a radiologist, that slows or cuts off the tumor’s blood supply. Remobilization (embolotherapy) causes the tumor to shrink.
A spinal tumor that develops within or invades (metastasize, spread) a vertebra may cause bony compression or fracture. Thus, Kyphoplasty or Vertebroplasty can be recommended in such cases. These procedures involve injection of a surgical bone cement into the fracture site so to provide immediate fracture stabilization.
Spinal stabilization, or spinal immobilization, is necessary for patients who suffer from a great deal of instability in their spine. This instability can be caused by a number of things, including trauma, injury, degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, kyphosis and more. The degree of stabilization necessary will depend on the severity of the condition and the surgeon’s assessment.
Radiation therapy is the most preferred treatment method for metastatic spinal cord tumors. During radiation therapy, the radiologist removes the cancer cells using radio waves.
The treatment requires care because the slightest mistake can cause irreversible damage.
Chemotherapy for spinal cord cancer involves oral, intravenous, or intrathecal ( inside the cerebrospinal fluid )administration of anti-cancer cells. Chemotherapy is usually advised for treating spinal gliomas.
Usually, chemotherapy is given in cycles and it generally requires no hospital admission. However, sometimes depending on the drugs used, the doctor may advise the patient a short stay in the hospital post-chemotherapy.
This is a non-surgical procedure that delivers precisely targeted radiation to treat certain spine tumors. Radio surgery treatment is administered during one or more sessions using high-dose of radiation. This treatment does not immediately remove the tumor like surgery. Rather, the tumor disappears with time.
What is the cost of spinal cord tumor treatment in India?
The cost for spinal tumor surgery in India ranges between USD $4500 – $6500 (336757 – 486428 INR) depending upon the surgeon and hospital.
The cost for radiotherapy for brain tumors in India ranges between USD $1,000 – $3,500 (74949 – 262321 INR) per sitting.
While the cost for chemotherapy for brain tumor treatment ranges between USD $300- $1200 (22365 – 89938 INR) per sitting.
While we help you get the best spinal cord tumor treatment in India, we also ensure that the cost for spinal cord tumor surgery is reasonable for you.
What is the success rate of spinal cord cancer treatment in India?
Spinal tumors primarily arise within the nerve cells or metastasize from other body parts. While the spinal tumor treatment success rate primarily depends on various factors like stage, size, age, gender, and type of the tumor.
The survival rate indicates the portion of individuals who will survive for the next five years after getting diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor.
The five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with spinal tumors ranges from 83% to 35% based on the age, stage, type, and location of the tumor.
However, the survival rates may vary based on several factors, like the type of tumor, age, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions and patient concerns:
1. What is the best treatment for spinal cord tumors in India?
Based on the location, grade, and type of the spinal cord tumor, your doctor will suggest the best treatment for the spinal cord tumor. Typically, there are various options that your doctor chooses for the treatment of spinal cord tumors in India.
Surgery is one of the most common treatment procedures used by doctors to treat spinal cord tumors. Apart from surgery, your doctor can suggest radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
2. How can I tell if my back pain is a spinal tumor?
Some of the signs are similar to other spinal conditions of a back or neck tumor. Worth noting that it is a rare condition for a spinal tumor, so do not worry.
The most widespread symptom is non-mechanical back or neck pain. This form of pain is continuous, is not activity-related, and lying down or resting does not alleviate it.
Sciatica, gradual numbness or fatigue, fever, partial paralysis, or bowel and bladder dysfunction are additional symptoms that may be associated with a tumor. If you have inflammation of the bowel or bladder seek urgent medical attention.
3. If I undergo radiation therapy, will I be radioactive?
Many radiation therapy patients undergo external radiation therapy that does not make them radioactive. Many times, such a treatment is also considered an outpatient procedure.
4. I was told to expect pain after radiation therapy. Why would that happen?
Following radiation therapy, many patients experience increased pain or discomfort, but the pain is temporary. As treatment affects tumor cells, radiation therapy can induce tissue inflammation.
5. Where do spinal tumors originate?
Within the spinal column, a spinal tumor can originate or spread to the spine from somewhere else. Primary tumors are very rare and originate in the spine.
Benign (non-cancerous) or malignant primary tumors may be (cancerous). Secondary tumors are malignant tumors that have spread to other areas of the body, such as the lungs, breasts, or the thyroid gland.
6. Are there any side effects of spinal cord tumor treatment?
The side effects of spinal cord tumor treatment primarily depend on the treatment chosen.
People who underwent chemotherapy for spinal cord tumor treatment may experience the following side-effects:
- Hair fall
- Mouth ulcers
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bitterness in mouth
- Altered appetite
- Constantly dry mouth
People who went surgery may sometimes experience the following side effects of spinal cord tumor surgery:
- Loss of sensation
- Leakage of CSF through the incision
Some people may experience the following side effects after radiation therapy for spinal cord tumors:
- Hair loss
- Altered taste
- Mouth ulcers