Usually, when your doctor first informs you that you have cancer, many emotions begin to arise. You are scared and anxious, not knowing exactly how you will begin to treat the diagnosis or if the prognosis is a good one or a bad one. Cancer of the bones is usually some of the toughest cancers to treat because you have so many bones in your body. The cancer has the option to spread literally everywhere inside of your body. When cancer enters into your cervical vertebrae, there is an escalated level of danger.
Types of Spinal Cancer
There are only two types of cervical vertebrae cancers – osteosarcoma and metastatic tumors. These two cancers can wreak havoc on your spinal area. Osteosarcomas are the least common of these two types of spinal cancers. This type of cancer is also the less dangerous of the two as well. When a person is diagnosed with osteosarcoma, they will have little tumors that grow very slowly. These tumors may not cause the individual any pain at all.
However, Metastatic tumors are another story. These tumors spread very rapidly throughout the body and usually cause a large amount of pain. Metastatic tumors are really hard to treat, making them so much more dangerous than osteosarcoma tumors. Both of these types of tumors begin during cell reproduction when the process of mitosis fails to correctly transform. The errors in the transformation process do not get properly, causing the cancer to begin to form on accident.
Symptoms of Spinal Cancer
Depending on which type of spinal cancer that you have, especially if the cancer is osteosarcoma, you may not know that you have the cancer until you are at a doctor’s visit. However, with metastatic tumors, your first symptom that something might be wrong would be experiencing pain. The pain will most likely be coming from the tumors attendance in the spinal column area. Usually, when this happens, the tumor will be pushing on nerve endings that might be sensitive, which would cause jolts of sharp like pains in your spine. When your spine is out of alignment, other symptoms become noticeable too, like the presence of a hump on your back (which some people refer to as hunchback).
When the tumor begins to press further on the spinal cord, there may be some moments where you begin to feel a tingly sensation in your legs, or possibly even lose all feeling in your legs completely. When this happens, you may experience times of clumsiness because you have lost the feeling in your legs and you cannot feel them. As the cancer begins to get worse and worse, you will eventually not be able to move your legs at all, which would then result in the individual being paralyzed for the rest of their lives. Other symptoms of spinal cancer to look for are muscle weakness, not walking normally, loss of sensation, trouble using the restroom (bowels and bladder), and spinal deformities.
Treatments of Spinal Cancer
There are several different types of treatment options for spinal cancer. The number one treatment option is usually chemotherapy. The chemotherapy drugs can be given to the patient in the form of a pill or they can be injected into the vein. There are some spinal tumors, depending on how severe they are, the drugs may have to be directly injected into the cerebrospinal fluid. With chemotherapy, you can receive the therapy alone or in combination with another spinal cancer treatment or even with surgery as well.
Sometimes after completing a removal surgery, your doctor may still recommend radiation therapy. Radiation is commonly used when the tumor is aggressive and the doctor wants to be sure that there are no traces of microscopic tumor cells left behind from the removal surgery. Radiation can be used on metastatic tumors to prevent them from spreading to other parts of the body, which they are so famously known for doing. Your radiation will be determined by several different factors of your tumor. Depending on the type of tumor that you have, the size of the tumor, and just how aggressive the tumor is will affect how your doctor recommends radiation. Usually, external radiation is used for spinal cancer. During the treatment, the entire area, including the tumor and the area that surrounds the tumor will be radiated. If the tumor in question is an aggressive metastatic tumor, radiation is usually given to the entire spine to prevent any more likelihood for spreading to other parts of the body.
Surgery is definitely an option for patients with spinal cancer. Many times when doing surgery on the spinal areas, many surgeons will use the same surgical strategies for brain tumors on the spinal tumors, just because they are so closely related. The spinal surgery will depend on several different factors to determine if this is a safe treatment route. For example, the location and grade of the tumor are definitely taken into consideration because if either of those is deemed too dangerous, the surgeon will not try to complete the surgery. If the tumor is only near one part of the spinal column area, the surgery will usually be completed and most of the time, the cancer is completely gone. Spinal cancer surgery is performed as well to remove any cancerous tissues pressing against the spinal cord area and nerves to stop any unwanted pain from happening.
If left untreated, there are several things that spinal cancer can do to your body. Not only can the cancer spread to the rest of your body, but in your spinal region, the tumor can cause compression fractures. Compression fractures happen when there is too much pressure on the bone and it literally causes the bone to break. When this happens, the bone is either shattered or crushed and it is extremely painful. At Miami Neck Specialists, we also treat compression fractures as well.