Symptoms of Spinal Cord Tumours

By  , Expert Content
Jan 17, 2013

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Spinal cord tumour is the term used to indicate growth of cells (mass) in or surrounding the spinal cord. Most symptoms of spinal cord tumours are caused because of disruption of transmission of nerve signals between the brain and the nerves below the tumour.

The factors which affect the symptoms a person with spinal cord tumour experiences depends many factors including the location, type of tumour, and his or her general health. Spinal cord tumours can develop after spread from other parts of the body (metastatic tumours). These tumours (metastatic tumours) have a tendency to progress quickly. However, the tumour at the primary site (primary tumours) often progress slowly (may be over weeks to years). Tumours located in the spinal cord usually cause symptoms earlier and often involve large portions of the body. Spinal tumours which arise outside the spinal cord may grow for a long time before causing nerve damage and symptoms.

Some common symptoms of spinal cord tumour

Change in sensation (abnormal sensations) or loss of sensation

  • It most commonly affects the legs (may be knee or ankle, some people may have shooting pain down the leg). But any part of the body can get affected. The part that is affected depends on the location of the tumour and the nerves that are affected.
  • Feeling cold in the legs, fingers or hands, or coolness of other areas.

Altered sensation (parasthesia) tends to progress over time. As the tumour increases in size the person may experience complete loss of sensation in the involved limb (most commonly the legs).

Back pain

Back pain is one of commonest symptom of a spinal cord tumour. Depending on the location of the tumour many people experience pain in legs as well. Pain may be felt in any part of the back but is most commonly felt in the middle or low back. The pain usually worsens with time, in most cases it is most intense at night and increases in intensity with lying down, strain, cough, and sneeze. Most people do not obtain any relief in the pain with pain medications. The pain may be constant, or it may come and go and may radiate to the hip, leg, or feet. Weakness and loss of sensation may progress downward from the point where the tumour is pressing on the spinal cord

Changes in muscle strength

Spinal tumours can cause muscle weakness, which most commonly involves the legs. It may start with some difficulty in walking and may be frequent falls. As the muscle weakness progresses difficulty in walking may increase and it does not improve with exercising the leg muscles. Eventually, the weakness may progress to such an extent that the person might not be able to stand or walk. Besides weakness spinal tumours can cause contractions or spasms (fasciculations) and muscle spasms.

Other symptoms

A person with spinal tumour may develop faecal incontinence and urinary incontinence (i.e loss of control over bowel and bladder movement and continence), erectile dysfunction.



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