A spinal-cord tumor is an abnormal growth that compresses the spinal cord or its nerve roots. The growth may be benign or malignant -- but a non-malignant tumor may be as disabling as a malignant tumor unless treated appropriately. The spinal cord and the nerves below the level of the spinal-cord tumor are involved. Spinal-cord tumors can affect both sexes, all ages, but are most common in adults.
Appropriate health includes:
Self-care after diagnosis and treatment.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Surgery to remove tumors and surrounding bone that compress the spinal cord.
Radiation therapy following surgery.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSProgressive weakness, numbness, and wasting of muscles whose nerve supply comes from the affected area of the spinal cord.
Difficult urination or bowel movements; incontinence.
Chronic back pain.
CAUSESTumors originating in the spinal cord (primary tumors) are rare--especially in childhood or old age--and their cause is unknown.
A spinal-cord tumor usually results from cancer that has spread from another part of the body, such as lung, breast, intestinal tract, prostate, kidney, thyroid, or lymphatic system.
Cancer in any of the body parts listed above.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Because spinal-cord tumors frequently result from the spread of cancer, be alert to early symptoms of cancer in other organs.
Encourage your child to eat a high-fiber diet to reduce the likelihood of intestinal cancer.
Be alert to enlargement of the child's thyroid gland.
Encourage your adolescent daughter to practice breast self-exam.
Urge your child not to smoke.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory studies of blood and spinal fluid.
X-rays of the spine.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSTotal paralysis caused by a blockage of blood vessels that nourish spinal-cord cells.
PROBABLE OUTCOMEThe success of your child's treatment depends on the type, size, and location of the growth.
Surgery to remove bone surrounding the spinal cord can relieve pressure on spinal nerves and nerve pathways. This operation generally relieves your child's pain and other symptoms immediately but may impair motor functions. Physical therapy and rehabilitation may restore lost function.
If the tumor originated on the exterior of the spinal cord and has not spread, surgery restores a normal life expectancy.
HOME CARENo specific instructions except those listed under other headings.
Cortisone drugs to decrease swelling around the tumor and reduce pressure on the spinal cord.
Anti-cancer drugs, if your child's tumor is malignant.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Your doctor may prescribe:
Your child should stay as active as strength allows. Work and exercise should be done in moderation. The child should rest when tired.
DIET & FLUIDS
The child should eat a normal, well-balanced diet. Vitamin and mineral supplements should not be necessary unless your child shows evidence of deficiency or cannot eat normally.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?After surgery has healed and appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has any symptoms of a spinal-cord tumor.