Tumours can take place in or around the spinal canal and nerve roots and, very rarely, inside the spinal cord itself. A tumour can be primary, occurring locally from the structures of the spine, or secondary or metastatic, spreading to the bone from other nearby organs, such as a lung or breast. They entail an abnormal mass or growth of tissue in or around the spinal column. What differentiates a normal tissue from a tumorous one is its ability to grow and multiply uncontrollably despite the availability of cell growth control mechanisms in the body. Symptoms include back pain, numbness in the legs or arms, changes to normal bowel or bladder movements.
Tumours do not necessarily need any treatment. We will usually only intervene if the tumour causes any risk to surrounding tissue or structures.
Surgical tumour procedures
Before any kind of treatment or surgery can be decided on, a biopsy will usually need to be carried out. A biopsy can help our specialists determine both the nature of the tumour (benign or malignant) and its likely progression. Further tests such as a CT scan and blood sampling can help us work out its source. From our results, we can then decide the best treatment approach for the best patient outcome.
Surgery can be carried out using a number of techniques ranging from the minimally invasive to invasive, depending on your medical history, the tumour type and its development.
Minimal invasive surgery options may include laser surgery, where we use the latest development in medical technology to target a concentration of laser energy to vaporise and breakup material without damaging surrounding vital structures, like nerves or blood vessels.
Keyhole surgery is another method involving a tiny incision to allow our surgeons to direct a camera and light via a tube to the area being treated.
The other option, taken as a last resort, is open surgery involving an incision of ½ inch or more. This is often the option where a patient’s condition has not responded to other means, has worsened or where there are multiple complexities.
The most common types of surgical treatments for spinal tumours are:
Decompression – This is the removal of part or an entire tumour. Resection is removing part of the cancerous growth while excise is complete removal of a tumour. These procedures seek to relieve pressure thus alleviating pain in the nerve roots and the spinal cord.
Embolization – This is a radiotherapy starvation trick. The radiologist cuts off the blood supply to a tumour. This slows down its growth and eventually it shrinks and dies.
Radiosurgery – This procedure involves the use of radiation to kill tumour cells. It precisely targets the DNA of cancer cells inhibiting their proliferation.
Chemotherapy – This is the method of killing the cancerous cells with a drug that is toxic to all cells in the body. Because chemotherapy drugs work throughout the whole body they upset cell growth and division from other areas, such as the bone marrow, hair, skin and intestines. Normal cells are able to recover from this attack but cancer cells cannot and so die off.
Certain other non-invasive treatments can be used to treat spinal tumours alongside or instead of invasive surgery, depending on the tumour type and development, and these include:
We have a proven track record in being able to avoid surgery for over 90% of patients coming to us at our Harley Street Hospital. Our specialists will always opt for targeted non-invasive procedures and as far as possible allow the body to heal while pain and inflammation are controlled.
After surgery, every patient is prescribed a carefully designed post-op care plan based on their recovery needs. This may include pain management, physiotherapy and a series of follow up checks to assess the success of the operation. We strive for excellence in standards of medical care when it comes to our patients, who typically report fantastic staff, a caring atmosphere, and great facilities.
Specialist in Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery and Medical Director of The Spine Unit
Specialist in Spinal Surgery and previously worked as a consultant in Norway
The London Spine Unit was established in 2005 and has successfully treated over 5000 patients. All conditions are treated.
The London Spine Unit specialises in Minimally Invasive Treatments allowing rapid recovery and return to normal function
The London Spine Unit provides the highest quality care to all patients and has VIP services for those seeking exceptional services
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