You’re sitting in a doctor’s office and have just been informed about a growth of cells that may be the cause of your constant headaches and lack of balance. You’ve feared the worst, but the diagnosis is not a common one: hemangioblastoma.
While it is not a household name the way some types of cancer are, hemangioblastoma cells can grow in patterns and locations like cancer does. But before you get freaked out by the name, let’s start with the basics: what a hemangioblastoma is and isn’t.
Hemangioblastoma: A Benign Tumor
A hemangioblastoma is a type of tumor that can grow near your spinal cord, near your organs, and under your blood vessels.
It’s important to note, though, that hemangioblastoma cells are not cancerous and do not continue to grow and invade nearby tissue the way cancer cells do. While they can bring on severe symptoms the way cancer cells do, this is mostly due to their growth location.
If you have developed a hemangioblastoma in your brain, for instance, all of your symptoms will be related to coordination and bodily functions. Headaches, nausea, and problems with coordination and balance may all result.
Whereas, the growth of a tumor of this kind in your spinal cord might cause you to feel weakness in your muscles or a numbness in your extremities, as one might with other types of spinal cord injury.
Before and after diagnosis, your doctor will likely recommend extensive imaging.
MRIs, ultrasounds, and CT scans are all types of imaging that can help your doctor locate and evaluate your tumors. Based on your symptoms, a doctor will have an idea of where the tumor may be located and whether imaging for that area is needed. Even after diagnosis, imaging may continue to be needed to determine if there has been any growth or development in the tumor.
There are two main treatments for a hemangioblastoma tumor: surgery or radiation.
Surgery would excise the tumor, removing any immediate risk to your spine, brain or other organ. Radiation may be done on its own, or in conjunction with surgery to reduce the likelihood of the tumor’s regrowth. While both treatment options carry risks, it is up to you and your doctor to decide which is most appropriate for you.
After treatment, you should be able to return to your usual routine. After tumors are removed, symptoms should go away with minimal complications.
However, if there was any damage to your nerves during the growth of the hemangioblastoma, there may be some complications to discuss with your doctor. Lasting effects all depend on the location of the tumor, how long it had been growing and its impact on your nerves.
If you are experiencing symptoms from what you suspect could be a hemangioblastoma or similar growth, speak to the medical experts at Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery. Call us today at (303) 790-1800 or use our online form to request an appointment.