The spine is your body’s primary support system. It allows you to stand and sit upright, and it gives you structure. It links most parts of the body—thus, it also allows movement and provides flexibility.
It consists of the backbone and the spinal cord. The backbone is made up of bone disks, tendons, and muscles. It stretches from the base of the head to the pelvis, and has a hollow shaft that houses the spinal cord.
The spinal cord is comprised of a network of nerves that connect the brain to the rest of the body. These nerves control your coordinated movements and sensations of pain, heat, cold, itching, and many others.
Your brain and spine make up the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is the center of all bodily functions, and it controls all coordination and reflexes. Like most other parts of your body, the spine is prone to tumors.
What Is A Tumor?
A tumor is generally an abnormal swelling of one or another part of the body. It’s caused mainly by the unusual growth of tissue, and it can either be benign or malignant. Benign tumors are non-cancerous, while malignant ones are cancerous. Some cancerous tumors are generally known to spread to other parts of the body rapidly. Benign tumors may be slow-growing and isolated, but they can grow quite big.
When indications of a tumor appear, you have to take quick action to get it checked out, in case it’s cancerous and deadly. There are sites that specialize in the removal of tumors such as Dickinsonneurosurgery.com, and consulting them about your condition is highly advisable.
In this article, you’ll read about the types of tumors that could affect the spine. Basically, tumors that begin in or around the spine are known as primary spinal tumors. These are classified based on where they’re located on the spine.
Intramedullary tumors are growths that usually develop in the neck. The most common types include the following.
An astrocytoma begins in astrocyte cells that are located in the brain and spinal cord. Astrocytes assist nerve cells to function correctly. Astrocytoma is reported to be the most common spinal cord tumor among children.
This tumor can occur in the brain or spinal cord. When it develops in the spinal cord, this could result in weakness and possible disability in the parts affected by the growing tumor.
Astrocytoma could grow either slowly or rapidly. Treatment is based on the rate of growth of the tumor. The treatment options are surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
2. Myxopapillary Ependymoma
A myxopapillary ependymoma develops in the tissue cells surrounding the spinal cord. The tumor grows in the supportive tissue of the spinal cord and the brain. It also tends to appear in the lower part of the spine and is often considered benign.
The symptoms of myxopapillary ependymoma depend on the position and size of the tumor. These may include headache, numbness, pain, nausea, vomiting, and bowel or bladder problems.
The causes of ependymomas are unknown. They’re said to affect people of all ages. Moreover, they’re reported to recur among individuals who are diagnosed with said tumors from childhood. Treatment varies depending on the tumor’s location and rate of growth, but it usually involves surgery. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also be applied for the management of tumors.
Oligodendrogliomas mostly appear in the white matter and the brain’s outer layer called the cortex. But they can develop anywhere in the CNS, including the spine. These tumors are named oligodendrogliomas because they resemble oligodendrocytes, a type of brain cell that supports and insulates the nerve fibers in the CNS.
Oligodendrogliomas can either be benign or malignant. The symptoms depend on the tumor’s location and rate of growth. Some possible signs include seizures, headaches, weakness, numbness, memory loss, and lack of balance and movement.
Treatment options for oligodendrogliomas depend on various factors, including grade, size, and type of the tumor. Otherwise, common treatment plans involve surgery, targeted radiation, and chemotherapy.
An ependymoma tumor can form in the brain or spinal cord. Ependymoma tumors are, in fact, one of the most common types of spinal cord tumors. They usually begin in the brain’s ependymal cells and the spinal cord lining, which contains cerebrospinal fluid that supports the flow of fluid in the spine.
Ependymoma tumors are common in young children, although they could also develop at any age. Seizures and headaches are some of the common symptoms among children with ependymoma. In adults, ependymoma is most likely to develop in the spinal cord and may weaken the parts with affected nerves.
This tumor type is primarily treated by surgery. But for the aggressive tumors or those that can’t be removed completely, additional treatments may be required. These may include chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
A hemangioblastoma has numerous blood vessels and can surface in any area of the spinal cord. It is a benign tumor, which means its non-cancerous. It could form in the lower part of the brain, the retina, or the spinal cord.
This tumor normally surfaces in the lining of blood vessels. And unlike malignant tumors, they don’t spread to nearby cells or tissue.
Hemangioblastomas are slow-growing and can usually be treated before any major complications develop. The causes of this type of tumor are not known, but statistics show that it’s common in adults around the age of 40. The treatment of hemangioblastomas is surgery or stereotactic radiosurgery, a procedure that uses radiation beams focused on the tumor.
A lipoma is an unusual growth that’s often found between the skin and the muscle layer underneath. It is a fat tissue in the middle of the back. It’s typically harmless but could press against the spinal cord.
Lipomas are usually congenital, which means they could be present at birth. They’re slow-growing and non-cancerous. However, they can be firm and tend to move when pressed.
These are commonly detected in middle-aged people and can appear in multiple areas. Treatment of this type of tumor is usually unnecessary unless it’s painful or growing. If it bothers the patient, nonetheless, they could have it surgically removed.
Intradural–extramedullary tumors often appear in the dural casing or the spinal cord’s outer layer. The most common forms include the following:
A meningioma is a tumor that occurs in the meninges. Meninges are membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord. Spinal meningiomas usually develop in the upper part of the spine and the membranes that wrap the spinal cord. These are common among women.
Most meningiomas are very slow-growing but tend to compress vessels and nerves in the spinal cord or brain. Symptoms may, however, take years to appear. These may include headache, vision loss, hearing loss, and seizures. In an advanced progression, this type of tumor may cause disability.
Because most meningiomas grow slowly, usually with no vital signs and symptoms, they don’t normally need urgent treatment and may be observed over time. They’re typically non-cancerous.
A neurofibroma is a tumor that emerges in the protective covering of the spinal cord and nerves. It commonly forms bumps on the skin, which are often soft. A neurofibroma can develop in nerves situated anywhere in the body.
Neurofibromas are usually benign and tend to emerge from within the nerve. They could also appear from many different nerve bundles, and this condition is specifically known as plexiform neurofibroma. Additionally, they may develop in people with a condition called neurofibromatosis, which causes nerve tumors throughout the CNS and the skin.
Symptoms of neurofibroma are typically mild or absent unless the tumor compresses nerves or grows within them. In that case, one may experience numbness or pain in the affected area. A neurofibroma is usually benign and rarely becomes malignant.
A schwannoma is made up of Schwann cells, which produce materials that cover nerves. It’s usually situated in the dura, outside the spinal cord.
Spinal schwannomas, therefore, are non-cancerous nerve tumors in the sheath of the spinal canal. They may appear on spinal nerves and have been reported to be the most common nerve sheath tumors of the spine.
A schwannoma doesn’t just happen in the spine. It is, in fact, one of the most common types of benign peripheral nerve tumors in adults. This means it could develop anywhere in the body, at any age.
In general, schwannomas grow slowly. They usually originate from single fascicles within a nerve and could supersede the rest of the nerve. When a schwannoma grows bigger, more fascicles are affected.
Symptoms of schwannoma are painless lumps or numbness in the affected areas. Although schwannomas are benign, they can lead to nerve damage and loss of muscle control. Treatment often involves surgery, but the bigger the tumor, the more complicated the removal process.
Spinal tumors are tumors that originate in or around the spine. These are classified as either intramedullary or intradural–extramedullary. They can also be benign or malignant. Spinal tumors could cause pain, numbness, or body weakness, depending on their size. Because they might compress nerves or blood vessels, spinal tumors may result in a lack of bladder and bowel movements.
In the worst-case scenario, a spinal tumor may cause complete paralysis. Always consult a doctor if you suspect you have one. With these types of conditions, prevention is always better than cure. And a tumor discovered on time can save anyone’s life.