A spinal tumour is an abnormal growth in the region of the spine.
This growth could involve the bones of the spine or the spinal cord and nerves.
Tumour specialists at Macquarie Neurosurgery & Spine are highly experienced in the management of both benign and cancerous spinal tumours.
What is the most common type of spinal tumour?
Spinal metastases are the most common type of spinal tumour.
Metastasis is the spread of cancer from another part of the body. Spinal metastases most commonly affect the bones of the spine, but may also spread to involve the spinal cord or nerve roots.
Cancers that could spread to the spine include:
- Lung cancer
- Breast cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Gastrointestinal cancers
- Kidney cancer
- Thyroid cancer
What are primary spinal tumours?
Primary spinal tumours are tumours that originate within the tissues of the spine (unlike metastases, which arise from elsewhere in the body).
Primary spinal tumours may be benign or malignant.
Primary spinal tumours are classified according to the part of the spine that they originate from:
- Intramedullary tumours originate from the spinal cord. These are rare, and are best managed by an experienced team.
- Intradural-extramedullary tumours arise between the thin membrane that covers the spinal cord (the dura) and the cord itself. Meningiomas are an example of this type of tumour. Although they are usually benign, meningiomas can cause significant symptoms and may be difficult to remove.
- Extradural tumours arise outside the spinal cord’s outer membrane.
What are the symptoms of a spinal tumour?
In most cases, the first symptom of a spinal tumour is back pain. Tumour-related back pain may be worse at night and is often unresponsive to simple pain medication
As a tumour grows, it could also cause symptoms such as:
- Sensory loss (arms, legs or torso)
- Muscle weakness (arms, legs or torso)
- Walking difficulties or paralysis
- Loss of bladder or bowel function
- Spinal deformity
How are spinal tumours treated?
The treatment of spinal tumours depends on their location, size and the nature of the tumour cells. The patient’s general health, and the prognosis of any underlying conditions, are also important considerations.
Management of metastatic spinal tumours is usually palliative, rather than curative. This means that the aim of treatment is to provide symptom relief and improve the patient’s quality of life. Metastatic spinal tumours may be treated with chemo- or radiotherapy. Some metastatic tumours (such as gastrointestinal or kidney cancers) are resistant to radiotherapy, and in these cases, surgery may be the best treatment option. Patients with metastatic cancers may also benefit from spinal surgery if the cancer has led to compression of the spinal cord or an unstable spine fracture.
In most cases, primary spinal tumours are treated with surgical resection. The aim of this type of surgery is to remove the entire tumour and provide a cure. The surgical approach depends on the location of the tumour. Surgery may be done via the back, or the tumour may be approached via an incision in the front of the body.
At Macquarie Neurosurgery & Spine, specialists work as part of a multidisciplinary team to offer holistic and comprehensive care. Our surgeons are highly skilled and use the latest technology, to ensure the best possible health outcomes for our patients.