By Dr. Aditya Gupta, Director, Neurosurgery and Cyberknife Centre, Agrim institute for neurosciences, Artemis Hospital
Tumors of the spinal cord, due to its hard-to-access locations, pose a major threat to life. And as the tumor grows, it affects the spinal cord, gradually. Depending on the location and the type of tumor, the severity may vary from person to person. The usual symptoms include back pain, loss of sensation especially in legs and arms, difficulty in walking, decrease in body immunity and sensitivity to pain, increase in heat and cold sensitivity, loss of bowel movement control, muscle weakness and paralysis of limbs in extreme cases. Back pain is the early and foremost symptom in both cancerous and noncancerous tumors.
Treatment for spinal tumors remains a challenge in India, due to the reason that only limited technology is available, and also the fact that the spine is sensitive. While surgery is the treatment of choice for such tumors and the prognosis is excellent. Patients show signs of recovery very soon and are able to get back to their normal life quite effectively. With the advanced technology that is available and the advent of the latest cyberknife radiation surgery, treating such complicated tumors has become completely safe and highly effective.
Spinal tumor types
It is the growth of tumour that develops within the bones of spine. It can be Benign or malignant.
There are three common types of tumors that may affect the spinal cord.
- Intra-medullary Tumors – It develops in cells that are present within the spinal cord. Examples are Astrocytoma and Ependymoma.
- Extra-medullary Tumors – It develops within the supporting network of cells that are around the spinal cord. This type of tumor affects spinal cord function. Examples are Meningiomas, Schwannomas, Neurofibromas.
- Vertebral Column Tumors
· Primary Tumors – It occurs in the vertebral column and develops either from the bone or disc of spine. Osteogenic Sarcoma is the bone tumour which comes under this category. These are very rare and grow slowly and typically occur from the age group 21-50.
· Metastatic Tumors – This Tumor spread from one area to another area of the body. The pain is worse and is accompanied by other signs of serious illness such as weight loss, fever, chills, nausea and vomiting.
The growth of any kind of spinal tumor can lead to pain, neurological problems and sometimes, it can be life-threatening and can even cause permanent disability.
In women, spinal tumor spread from cancer cells that originate from breasts or lungs whereas in, in case of Men, it spreads from tumor cells that originate from lungs or prostate.
What are the symptoms?
As the tumor grows, it affects the spinal cord, gradually. Depending on the location and the type of tumor, the severity may vary from person to person. The usual symptoms include back pain, loss of sensation especially in legs and arms, difficulty in walking, decrease in body immunity and sensitivity to pain, increase in heat and cold sensitivity, loss of bowel movement control and muscle weakness. Back pain is the early and the foremost symptom in both cancerous and noncancerous tumors.
Why cyberknife is preferred over other methods of treatment?
Though many other treatment methods may be available for treating spinal tumors but due to the advantage of being totally non-invasive and eliminates the requirement of any kind of anesthetics, cyberknife is a very useful tool saving the patient’s time and helping in better and quicker recovery. Cyberknife radiation surgery is a form of radio surgery that uses precisely targeted radiation to destroy tumors. This system is non-invasive and prevents any kind of blood loss eliminating the need for anesthesia.
Cyberknife radiosurgery is typically not useful in intramedullary tumors (the first type mentioned above) as these are located inside the spinal cord. For extramedullary tumor, Cyberknife is a good option for small tumors that are not causing any compression of the spinal cord, including small residual tumors after surgery. Vertebral column tumors, specially cancer deposits can be successfully treated with Cyberknife unless they are very big, very numerous, or cause spinal cord compression or spinal column instability.
The cyberknife system is unique designed robotic system that delivers high-precision surgical procedures and is flexible in producing radiations is one of the best options for treatment of spinal tumor.