Treatment for Spinal Tumours
The treatment for spinal tumours is a joint decision between the GP, Oncologist and the patient. Each individual will have a treatment plan tailored specifically to their needs - different types of tumours require differing methods of therapy.The four main treatment types used are:
Complementary therapies are also available, but they are not proven to affect spinal tumours within the domain of conventional medicine.
Surgical Treatment of Spinal TumoursSurgery is normally performed on benign tumours and can usually be removed completely as they do not tend to encroach on the spinal canal. Occasional malignancies can be treated this way, such as a chordoma, but these can often be growing within the spinal cord so total excision can often prove to be too difficult and carry too many risks.
Tumours of the vertebrae are extremely difficult to remove as they vary greatly in size, location, stability of the spinal column, both pre and post operatively, and also can be present in more than one area. The use of implants is being researched, so the future may be more promising regarding the surgical removal of spinal tumours.
RadiotherapyThis type of treatment is used for malignant tumours and sometimes following surgery as a way of helping to eliminate any existing cells or tumour. Radiotherapy works by exposing the area to high levels of x-ray that either damage or destroy the cells. It can cure or delay the disease by shrinking the tumour. It can help alleviate neurological symptoms caused by the tumour by relieving the pressure on the nerves of the spinal cord.
Radiotherapy may cause burning and irritation to the skin covering the treated area and temporary worsening of the tumour's symptoms may occur. The radiotherapist and oncologist together decide the dose, duration and how many sessions are required by each individual.
ChemotherapyChemotherapy works by exposing the individual to powerful drugs/chemicals that are given intra-venously (through a drip) or as a tablet. It is often the course of treatment in the presence of secondary tumours and normally requires a course of treatment over a certain period, again determined by the oncologist. Chemotherapy works by preventing the malignant cells from reproducing, eventually the cells will die. Effects of chemotherapy include hair loss/thinning, nausea and fatigue, interferences with fertility and soreness to the mouth. Most side-effects will subside once treatment has been finished.
The prognosis is different in everyone and spinal canal and spinal cord tumours can take a very long time to shrink or heal.
SteroidsSteroids are usually given in conjunction with the previously mentioned treatments. They are hormonal drugs that are produced naturally in the human body and are given as a supplement. They are administered either by tablet or by injection. They help treat the symptoms of the tumour by reducing the swelling that surrounds the tumour.
Spinal tumours can be treated using any one of these methods, or more usually a combination. They do not heal the condition for everyone, but may help alleviate the symptoms of the tumour.