Spinal cord tumors

What is a spinal cord tumor?
Like the brain, the spinal cord is part of the central nervous system which controls all the functions and senses of the body. Tumors affecting the spinal cord are rare. Not all spinal cord tumors are cancer, as the tumors can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors do not contain cancer cells and once removed, rarely grow back. However, benign tumors of the central nervous system can also cause serious health problems and may become malignant. Malignant tumors are cancerous. They grow quickly and invade surrounding tissue and are usually life-threatening.

What causes spinal cord tumors?
It is not known what exactly causes spinal cord tumors. 

What are the symptoms of spinal cord tumors?
• Muscle spasms or seizures
• Difficulty walking
• Back or neck pain
• Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs or both
• Fatigue or lethargy
• In some cases, incontinence (when the tumor is located in the lower part of the spinal cord)

How are spinal cord tumors diagnosed?
Physicians at KHCC use a variety of diagnostic techniques and procedures to determine the presence of a benign or malignant brain tumor, and to evaluate its size, location and how fast-growing it is:
• Complete physical and neurological exam to test your vision, hearing, muscle reflexes, coordination and sensation in addition other neurological functions
• MRI scan to get a complete image of your brain and spinal cord and to determine whether there are any abnormal areas
• CT scan to get a complete image of your brain and spinal cord to show whether there are any abnormal areas
• CSF test to get a sample of your celebro-spinal fluid and examine whether there are any abnormal cells
• Biopsy either through surgery or a needle biopsy to extract some tissue to be further examined in a lab
How are spinal cord tumors treated at KHCC?
At KHCC, spinal cord tumors are treated by a team of dedicated physicians involving neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, neurologists and other specialists. The treating physician will present the case to the MDC panel who will determine the right treatment for the patient depending on how much the cancer has spread throughout the body.

Depending on the type of tumor and how advanced it is, treatment can involve surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Given the extremely delicate location of spinal cord tumors, the KHCC medical team uses the most state-of-the-art technologies and procedures to target the tumors with maximum precision without exposing the patient to neurological damage. Surgeons at KHCC operate on tumors ultrasound-guided and image-guided neurosurgery navigation systems. In addition, radiation oncologists treat the tumor using stereotactic radiosurgery, a form of radiation therapy that can focus high-powered x-rays on very small areas without affecting nearby healthy tissue. This treatment is currently only available at KHCC.

Spinal cord tumor patients receive top quality care from a multidisciplinary team of neuro-oncology specialists that is entirely devoted to diagnosing and treating spinal cord tumors and other tumors of the central nervous system.

Supportive Care
The neuro-oncology cancer multidisciplinary clinic works in close cooperation with other departments at KHCC so that patients with spinal cord tumors receive the most comprehensive care possible. Supportive care services at KHCC include: