What is Spinal Cancer?
We may have been all familiar with cancer, this is in fact one of most frightening diseases that anyone of us can have. True enough, one can be so healthy one day and the next having to hear the bad news of a certain tumor growing inside your body. They are something that is so hard to fight and often can lead to death. We do know about breast cancer, leukemia and other so-called common cancers that are often being publicized but not all people have heard about spinal cancer. Having sufficient knowledge about spinal cancer will give us an edge because knowing this vital information can lead to prevention.
Basically, spinal tumors are neoplasms. This means that an abnormal tissue growth have occurred in a place where it shouldn’t be. For suspected spinal cancer, it would be located in the spinal cord. Did you know that depending on their location, tumors in the spinal cord can be categorized as extradural (which means outside the dura mater lining, this is also the most common) and intradural (which means it’s inside the dura).
Spinal cancer is one of the most painful and the hardest one to endure. Having a spinal tumor would not only settle in one area in your spine, it can like any other major cancer cells move from the spinal cord and affect the pelvis and will damage nerve roots. We know that our spine is one of our major body parts right? Any damage, may it be from an accident or an internal problem such as cancer can cause paralysis and death.
It’s important to categorize the origin of the tumors. A spinal tumor can be primary, if the cells of the tumor were formed from the cells within or near the spine itself. Now primary tumors of the spine are very rare. Most of the time spinal cancers are found having secondary spinal tumors. Now secondary spinal tumors didn’t originate from the nerves or cells from the spine, rather it traveled from somewhere else in the body and has just evolved there.
Causes of Spinal Cancer
When faced with this terrible situation, the most common question that we may ask ourselves is what happened and what caused this problem?
Primary Spinal Cancer
Based on studies, a primary spinal tumor (formed cells within or near the spine) may have formed due to some abnormal genes which sadly remains unknown, some suspects that the causes of tumors can pass through families. Some of these tumors are not cancerous but can also be dangerous. What’s scary about primary spinal tumors is that since it was formed inside/from spinal nerves itself, it can immediately cause problems. This is also the most common reason why it is detected. Primary tumors will most immediately compress the spinal cord and its nerves. This will then cause serious complications like paralysis and loss of bowel and bladder control. For some who have active cancer cells, it will destroy the vertebral bone and can lead to more problems because the vertebral bone supports the spinal cord making it unstable and almost useless.
Secondary Spinal Cancer
The more common of the said cancer is from a secondary spinal tumor. This means that the spinal tumor that has been detected just travelled there from the original source. Unfortunately, these tumors formed by secondary tumors are always cancerous because they have traveled from an already affected body organ and thus have formed another cancer affecting the spine. The most common causes of the cancer mass can come from skin cancer, breast cancer, prostate, thyroid gland and even kidney cancer mass.
Malignant Spinal Cancer Types
Tumors found in the spine will be categorized as Malignant or Benign but it doesn’t really end there because there are different sub types of tumors both in the malignant and benign categories. As benign tumors can also cause problems, our main goal is to understand the other one as cancer cells cause more trouble.
Here is a list of spinal cancers or malignant spinal tumors.
- Osteosarcoma - unfortunately this spinal cancer often affects children and young adults and is more common with men.
- Ewing's Sarcoma - affects adolescents and those who are in their early adulthood. Because it involves the spine, the most common effect is paralysis and complete loss of bladder or bowel function.
- Chondrosarcoma - this form of spinal cancer usually occurs in adults and most commonly settles in flat bones such as the pelvis. Pain is one of the most common symptoms.
- Astrocytomas - this type of spinal cancer is also common in children and can spread easily damaging nerves not just in the spine but also in the brain. This is one of the hardest one to deal with.
Having to deal with cancer is indeed a nightmare. Most often, people would just be surprised to know that they have it leaving them wondering what happened and what could happen. Getting enough information for those who don’t have it is encouraged as this will give you knowledge and who knows – even early detection.