Tumors of the vertebral column are rare but grave diseases. The life of a person with a tumor is limited, even after taking the most advanced form of treatment. Treatment options that are offered are highly expensive and are not available at all centers. Early diagnosis and treatment before the spread of the tumor to various parts of the body can improve the overall duration of life. Thus, it is important to recognize this potentially lethal form of back pain !
Origin of Tumors
A tumor can originate in a vertebra, but this form is highly rare, like multiple myeloma. Normally, a tumor originates from either breast cancer (females) or prostate/lung cancer (males), and then reaches the vertebra to form a secondary tumor by metastasis. Sometimes, even the excessive radiation from treatment of the initial tumor can cause tumor in the vertebra. Thus, a person with a history of any tumor or radiotherapy, has to be careful regarding middle back pain !
Symptoms of Tumors
The tumor leads to production of abnormal cells in the body of the vertebra. These cells cannot aggregate calcium like the normal bone cells and so produce a weakening of the vertebra. The back pain in tumors of the vertebra are either bone pains or nerve compression pains.
- Bone pains are due to the presence of tumor in the vertebra and are often felt during mechanical strain on the vertebra, like jumping, walking, and so on.
- Nerve compression pains are pangs of shooting pain felt in the lower limbs and lower back. They are due to compression of spinal nerves and spinal cord by the tumor mass. They are commonly felt during stretching activities, like bending, etc.
The rapid growth of tumor cells and their destruction by the immune system of the body leads to pronounced weight loss, which is further exaggerated by loss of appetite. The increase in size of the tumor can lead to pressure on the spinal cord and a gradual loss of sensations and movements of the legs. This is clearly seen as a sudden clumsiness while walking or inability to walk without support. Such a rapidly growing tumor has to be immediately removed with a surgery, otherwise it carries the risk of complete paralysis of both legs or even death itself !