A young Meerut professional successfully celebrated Diwali with his family after undergoing a complex surgery in his spinal cord, which otherwise could have been life threatening. After experiencing episodes of numbness and weakness in both his arms and legs, 34-year-old Aditya Bansal had made several local consultations, where MRI of the neck revealed a non-cancerous tumour sitting inside the spinal cord.
The patient and his family members were totally devastated and worried about the complex disease and decided to visit Artemis Hospital for advanced treatment options.
Detailed examination of his spine revealed a benign tumour in the cervical part of his spine that had caused weakness, numbness and gradual deterioration of his balance. Such tumours are technically known as intramedullary tumours which are one of the riskiest tumours to be removed, as in some cases post-surgical events may result in permanent weakness in all the forelimbs. Pertaining to the size and location of the tumour and his deteriorating condition, he was advised for non-invasive cyberknife procedure. Thankfully the surgery went very well, and we were able to remove the entire tumour from the cervical spinal cord. Immediately after surgery, the patient was able to move his arms and legs freely and was able to walk with minimal support.
Spinal tumour types
It is the growth of tumour that develops within the bones of spine. It can be Benign or Malignant. There are three common types of tumours that may affect the spinal cord.
1) Intra-medullary Tumours: They develop in cells that are present within the spinal cord. Examples are Astrocytoma and Ependymoma.
2) Extra-medullary Tumours: They develop within the supporting network of cells that are around the spinal cord. This type of tumour affects the spinal cord function. Examples are Meningiomas, Schwannomas, Neurofibromas.
3) Vertebral Column Tumours:
• Primary Tumours: Occur in the vertebral column and develop either from the bone or disc of spine. Osteogenic Sarcoma is a bone tumour which comes under this category. These are very rare and grow slowly and typically occur in the age group 21-50.
• Metastatic Tumours: This Tumour spreads from one area of the body to another. The pain is worse and is accompanied by other signs of serious illness such as weight loss, fever, chills, nausea and vomiting.
The growth of any kind of spinal tumour can lead to pain, neurological problems and sometimes, it can be life-threatening and can even cause permanent disability.
In women, spinal tumour spreads from cancer cells that originate from breasts or lungs whereas in case of men it spreads from tumour cells that originate from lungs or prostate.
What are the symptoms?
As the tumour grows, it affects the spinal cord, gradually. Depending on the location and the type of tumour, the severity may vary from person to person. The usual symptoms include back pain, loss of sensation especially in legs and arms, difficulty in walking, decrease in body immunity and sensitivity to pain, increase in heat and cold sensitivity, loss of bowel movement control and muscle weakness. Back pain is the early and the foremost symptom in both cancerous and noncancerous tumours.
Though many other treatment methods may be available for treating spinal tumours but due to the advantage of being totally non-invasive, cyberknife method eliminates the requirement of any kind of anesthetics. Cyberknife is a very useful tool that saves the patient’s time and helps in better and quicker recovery. Cyberknife radiation surgery is a form of radio surgery that uses precisely targeted radiation to destroy tumours. This system is non-invasive and prevents any kind of blood loss, thus eliminating the need for anesthesia. Treatment for spinal tumours remain a challenge in India, due to the reason that only limited technology is available, and also the fact that the spine is sensitive and can receive only limited amount of radiation. Cyberknife being flexible in producing radiations is one of the best options for treatment of spinal tumour. The cyberknife system is a unique designed robotic system that delivers high-precision surgical procedures.
—The writer is Director, Neurosurgery and Cyberknife Centre, Agrim institute for Neurosciences, Artemis Hospital, Gurugram.