Spinal Cord Tumors
Spinal cord tumors that develop within the cord are called intramedullary. Spinal cord tumors that occur within the meninges, the membranes that cover the spinal cord, are called extramedullary or intradural. Tumors that are between the meninges and the spine bones are termed extradural. Metastasized tumors result from cancer that originates elsewhere and spreads to the spinal cord. Lung, breast, prostate, kidney, and thyroid cancer may metastasize to the spinal cord.
As it grows, a spinal cord tumor may affect the structures and function of the spinal cord. Primary spinal cord tumors grow slowly, over weeks to years. Metastatic tumors tend to grow quickly.
Your muscles, particularly in your legs, may feel weak and become weaker over time. It may be difficult to walk, and you may fall. You may not be able to retain or control your bowels or urine.
Imaging tests are used to produce pictures of a spinal cord tumor. X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can provide more information about the size and location of a tumor. A myelogram uses dyes with an X-ray or CT scan to visualize the tumor better.
Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) and Stereotactic Radiotherapy (SRT) are both methods of delivering radiation therapy to spinal cord tumors. SRS or SRT may be used instead of or along with surgery. SRS involves a single radiation treatment. SRT uses a series of treatments over time. Both methods spare healthy tissues because the radiation precisely targets the cancer.
Am I at RiskThe cause of primary spinal cord tumors is unknown, so risk factors have not been identified as of yet. You may be at risk for metastatic spinal cord cancer if you have the type of cancer in another part of the body that tends to metastasize to the spinal cord.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.