The treatment for spinal tumours is a combined decision between
the GP, Oncologist and the patient. Each person will have
a treatment plan customized specifically to their needs as
different types of tumours involve differing methods of therapy.
The four main types of therapy used are surgery, radiation
therapy, chemotherapy and the use of steroids. There are complementary
therapies that exist, but they are not proven within the field
of conventional medicine.
Surgery is generally carried
out on benign tumours and can usually be removed entirely
as they do not tend to invade on the spinal canal. Occasional
malignancies can be treated this way too, such as a chordoma,
but these can frequently grow inside the spinal cord so total
removal can often prove to be too difficult and carry too
Tumours of the vertebrae are
exceptionally complex to remove as they differ greatly in
size, position, strength of the spinal column, both pre and
post operatively, they can also be present in more than one
area. The use of implants is being researched, so the future
may be more promising when it comes to the surgical elimination
of bony spinal tumours.
This form of treatment is
used for malignancies and occasionally after having surgery,
as a way of helping to remove any existing cells or tumours.
It works by revealing the area to high levels of X-ray that
damages or destroys the cells. It can cure or setback the
disease by shrinking the tumour. It can help ease neurological
symptoms which are caused by the tumour by relieving the pressure
on the nerves of the spinal cord.
Radiotherapy may cause burning
and irritation to the skin that covers the treated area which
in turn could briefly worsen the tumour symptoms.
The radiotherapist and the
oncologist decide the dose together as well as the length
of time and how many sessions are required by each individual.
Chemotherapy works by exposing
the person to powerful chemical drugs that are given by the
intra-venous route (through a drip) or tablet form. It is
frequently the course of treatment used in the presence of
secondary tumours and usually requires a course of treatment
over a certain time, again set by the oncologist.
Chemotherapy works by trying
to stop the malignant cells from reproducing; in due course
the cells will die. The effects of chemotherapy include hair
loss/thinning, fatigue and nausea, problems with fertility
and tenderness in the mouth. The majority of side-effects
will settle once treatment has been completed.
Everyone has a different prognosis. Spinal canal and spinal
cord tumours can take an extremely long period to shrink or
The use of steroids is generally
given alongside the other previously mentioned treatments.
There are hormonal drugs that are produced naturally in the
human body and are given as a supplement. They are given either
by tablet form or by injection. They help treat the symptoms
of the tumour by decreasing the swelling that surrounds the
Spinal tumours can be treated
using any one of these methods, usually with a mixture. These
treatments do not cure the condition for everyone, but may
help improve the symptoms of the tumour.