Treatment of Pediatric Spinal Cord Tumors

Pediatric Spinal Cord Tumors

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Cross Section of the Spinal CordTreatment
Immediate treatment of a spinal cord tumor is the key to a successful outcome. Most cases of spinal cord tumors are treated surgically. As stated above, even non-cancerous tumors can continue to grow and place pressure on the spinal cord and block the blood vessels that nourish spinal cord cells. This can seriously affect the child's ability to function and can even cause total and permanent paralysis.

Surgery is performed to remove or reduce the size of the tumor and alleviate the pressure on the spinal column caused by the tumor. Once the surgery has been performed, a pathologist examines tumor tissue to determine the exact type of tumor. This is called tumor classification and is based on the type of cells from which the tumor originates. After the tumor is classified, it is then given a number to indicate the speed at which it is growing. This is called tumor grading. A higher number is given to fast-growing tumors and less aggressive tumors are given lower numbers.

In addition to surgery, other parts of the treatment plan may include:

• Radiation therapy - x-ray beams targeted to the tumor site to destroy tumor cells

• Chemotherapy - used for cancerous tumors to destroy cancer cells

• Physical therapy - to help restore body functions and strength impaired or lost before surgery

Depending on the size and location of the tumor, most children tolerate this type of surgery quite well and are often released from the hospital within a few days of the procedure. Once home, the child may need to be given pain medications until the incision is completely healed.

As soon as the child is able, he or she should be encouraged to return to daily activities like school or play. Exercise can be done in moderation. The child should also get plenty of rest and be given a well-balanced diet.

Follow-up with the child's surgeon to monitor the recovery process is important. Regular check-ups with the child's pediatrician should also continue.

Updated on: 08/17/15
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Pediatric Spinal Cord Tumors
Curtis A. Dickman, MD
These articles by Dr. Jallo describe tumors of the spinal cord in children. Fortunately, tumors affecting the spinal cord and nerves are rare and are often noncancerous, benign lesions. Benign tumors usually are able to be completely resected and cured and do not require chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Radiation and/or chemotherapy are usually reserved for cancerous tumors or tumors that cannot be completely resected. The microscopic appearance of the tumor after it is biopsied or excized (Histopathology), is essential for determining the appropriate treatment of a spinal cord tumor.
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Pediatric Spinal Cord Tumors

Spinal cord tumors in children are rare, but they do happen. In fact, tumors of the nervous system are the most common type of solid tumors (those not originating in the blood or bone marrow) found in children. Spinal cord tumors can be life threatening if left untreated.
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