Spinal tumors can grow inside the spinal canal or the bones that make up the spine. Depending on their type and grade, the tumors may spread to the vertebrae and surrounding tissues.
Nonsurgical treatment options—such as medications and radiation therapy—are usually the first-line treatment for spinal tumors. However, if they are ineffective, your spinal surgeon may recommend tumor surgery.
Surgeries by their very nature are complex and risky, so it proves prudent to equip yourself with adequate knowledge before contemplating a spinal tumor surgery. Make sure to ask the following questions and have your spine surgeon explain the potential general complications of tumor surgery.
What Happens if I Do Not Proceed with Tumor Surgery?
The idea of going for surgery can make you feel anxious or nervous. However, deciding not to push through and leaving your tumor untreated may come with potentially life-threatening consequences.
If the tumor is malignant, it can metastasize, which means it can spread to other parts of your spinal cord, resulting in pain and neurological problems. If it grows large enough, it can push your spine out of alignment. In severe cases, a spinal tumor can cause permanent disability, paralysis, and even death.
Your spinal surgeon will only suggest surgery after a thorough medical examination. Unless your surgeon concludes that the tumor is aggressive and all less invasive options won’t work, surgery will remain your last resort.
How Do I Prepare for Tumor Surgery?
Your doctor will provide you with all the necessary preoperative instructions.
If you’re a smoker, try to gradually kick the habit or limit how much you smoke to reduce the risk of surgical complications. Also, avoid alcohol consumption 24 hours prior to your surgery.
You can eat a light dinner a day before the operation, but you might need to fast for eight hours prior.
If you’re taking any medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements, ask your doctor if they will interfere with the surgery. Some medicines cause adverse reactions or affect your body’s ability to heal.
You may also have to take an extended leave from work to recover, so remember to plan ahead.
How Is a Tumor Removed?
Your doctor will look at the size, type, and location of the tumor. If it’s at a safe distance from your nerves and spinal cord, then your spinal surgeon can remove the entire tumor.
However, if it is at a dangerous location, your spinal surgeon may use high-frequency sound waves to break up tumors and remove the fragments. Nonetheless, even with the latest advances in surgical technology, not all tumors can be totally removed. In such a case, surgery may be done in conjunction with radiation therapy or chemotherapy, or both.
What Are the Risks Involved?
Stiffness and numbness in the back are the common side effects of spinal tumor surgery. There’s also a chance that the nerve tissue may bleed or get injured due to the surgery. Your spinal surgeon will discuss these risks before the procedure and outline the steps you can take to reduce these side effects.
How Long Is the Recovery Process?
It takes weeks to months to recover from tumor surgery. Your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce swelling and pain within the span of your recovery. Make sure to follow your doctor’s post-operative instructions and attend follow-up appointments.
Since your spinal surgeon operated around your spinal cord, certain bodily functions may be affected.
If you experience these warning signs, visit your doctor right away:
- Extreme changes in behavior
- Nausea, vomiting
- Severe headaches
- Trouble walking
First-Rate Spinal Surgeons in Colorado
If done on time, a tumor surgery can be remarkably life-changing. Although not without risk, surgery in the hands of a skilled spinal surgeon can reduce the risk of permanent damage and significantly improve quality of life.
For world-class neurosurgical care, visit us at Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery today. We have two board-certified neurosurgeons—Dr. Michael Rauzzino and Dr. Kevin Boyer —who have performed countless spinal surgeries, such as spinal tumor surgeries, and helped many of our patients live a normal, pain-free life. Their expertise and extensive clinical experience ensure the best patient outcomes.
To learn more about our services or schedule an appointment, call us at (303) 790-1800 or fill out our online appointment request form. We have four locations in Colorado to serve you: Lone Tree, Parker, Colorado Springs, and Aurora. Give us a call today and allow us to be your lifetime healthcare partner!