Cancer Of The Spine
Important Facts about Cancer of the Spine
While any form of the dreaded disease is a traumatic occurrence, cancer of the spine can create additional issues by compromising the individual’s ability to sit, stand and move in addition to the complications caused by the cancer itself.
Each and every day, the human immune system is at work fighting off threats that abnormal elements bring to our bodies. These potentially dangerous elements would, if not held in check, damage the normal function of various vital organs. Many of them are produced by our own bodies as cells, and actually perform some type of beneficial function in small numbers. The immune system keeps them from growing in number in the majority of cases. However, when any of these abnormal cells overpopulate the human body, the immune system is unable to fight them off and a tumor develops in a condition called cancer. This disease can affect virtually any part of the human body.
Normal cell production is an extremely rigid process in that specific cells have specific life spans, functions and capabilities such as division. Abnormal cells can be considered as renegade cells, as they ignore any of this structural control. These cells have sketchy life spans, virtually no function and are able to divide exponentially. Most normal cells are able to hold fast to other cells in their immediate areas to keep them static; abnormal cells lack this skill and therefore can move about freely throughout the body. This ability to move is called “metastasize”, and is one reason that all cancers are so unpredictable and dangerous.
When cancer is detected in the spinal column, the disease is generally first carefully examined in an attempt to determine how it began. There are two different types of cancer that affect the spine: primary tumors and metastatic tumors. Each type is equally as dangerous to the individual because they both have the same effect on the spinal column.
- Primary tumors. These tumors actually originate in the tissues of the spinal column. While rare, they do occur most often in individuals that are less than 20 years of age.
- Metastatic tumors. Most often seen in individuals with cancer of the spine that are over the age of 40, metastatic tumors are those which originated in some other part of the body and traveled to and then dropped in the area of the spine. Often, the path traversed by the abnormal cells is the bloodstream, along nerves or within spinal fluid or the fluid surrounding the brain. Once these irregular cells reach the spine, the tumor begins to grow.
Symptoms of spinal cancer
Pain is the foremost symptom experienced by an individual who has a tumor in the spinal column. Often, the level of pain experienced has no relationship with physical activity. As the tumor grows and begins to compress the nerves of the spine, other symptoms such as numbness, tingling and muscle weakness may be experienced. This pain may extend up into the neck or run down the legs.
Treatment of spinal cancer
Many variables play a part in determining the most effective treatment for this type of cancer. The type of tumor and where it is located as well as how far the disease has advanced are primary considerations. Many types of spinal cancer are treated successfully, alleviating most or all of the pain.
Both types of tumors can create a great deal of pain and damage to those diagnosed with cancer of the spine. It is important for all individuals to be acutely aware of any changes in their body and act on them promptly, as early detection can avoid advanced problems and often lead to successful treatment of cancer.