Back pain could occur due to multiple reasons and it does not always indicate the presence of a tumor.
Nevertheless, if the back pain persists despite the administration of over-the-counter analgesics, consulting a cancer specialist can warrant early medical intervention to treat back pain due to the presence of spinal tumor.
How does spinal cancer affect the backbone?
Back pain in patients suffering from spine cancer is essentially caused by the weakening and slow erosion of bones and the compression of spinal nerve roots that lead to neurological dysfunction, eventually causing permanent damage to the backbone. However, spinal tumors may or may not be painful and hence it is advisable to consult a cancer specialist if the presence of tumor has been detected in and around the spine.
Complaints related to back pain and neurological deficits from patients experiencing other forms of cancer require immediate examination to rule out the possibility of cancer spreading from other areas to the spine. Hence, a complete physical and neurological examination is done using radiographic studies, MRI and CAT scans to evaluate the presence of the source of the spinal tumor.
Treatment options for spine cancer
Even though, there are multiple ways of treating spine cancer, the treatment adapted mainly depends on the location and the speed with which the tumor grows. Invasive treatments like surgical removal are not used for slow-growing tumors that do not cause any symptoms or drastic changes in the body. However, malignant or aggressive tumors require immediate removal by surgical method, which is often followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy to remove the cancerous cells that adhere to the spinal cord.
1. Surgical removal
Surgical treatments are reserved for tumors that grow inside the arachnoid membrane and extend outside the nerve roots called Intradural-Extramedullary tumors. In addition, intramedullary tumors that grow within the supporting cells or glial cells of the nervous system also need surgical removal. However, surgical treatments have additional risks of damaging spinal nerves and inducing back pain in patients rather than alleviating the pain. Hence, surgical treatments are carried out in a very intricate manner by simultaneously monitoring the spine to ensure that the surgical procedure does not damage the spine and render it dysfunctional. Despite all the preventive measure taken to ensure that the nerves remain intact, adequate amount of rest and time is required for the spinal nerves to heal completely, following a surgery.
2. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy
If surgery fails to remove all the cancerous cells, radiotherapy is used as a post-operative measure to kill tumor cells that are in close proximity to the spinal nerves. Even though, chemotherapy has not been approved for treating spine cancer, it can be used in conjunction with radiotherapy to treat malignant vertebral tumors that have spread to other body parts like lungs, breasts, kidneys and prostate glands.
Other natural alternative treatments like moderate exercise and mind-body relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation have also been accepted by the scientific community to block neoplastic growth since they are free of any unwanted side effects that most medical interventions are associated with
To sum it up, all the aforementioned treatments are aimed at relieving pressure on the spinal nerves and reducing the intensity of the back pain. Nonetheless, one should consult a cancer specialist to discuss the risks and side effects associated with a therapy to help you decide on an appropriate therapy for treating the severity of your condition.
Michelle Tyler is a freelance healthcare writer with more than 10 years experience in the healthcare communications field. A Certified Medical Assistant, she works with the Local Media group to research and report on the latest medical breakthroughs.