Spinal cord tumors - abnormal tissue growths within or next to the spinal cord - are very rare, and can either be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous).
Symptoms can be difficult to identify in children so regular check-ups with a pediatrician are extremely important. To ensure a timely diagnosis, a child's pediatrician should be consulted as soon as any of the symptoms or neurological deficits outlined above display themselves. With proper diagnosis and treatment, these tumors can be managed and successfully treated.
A diagnostic evaluation of your child begins with a thorough medical history and physical examination. The doctor will also conduct a neurological assessment or your child. Several diagnostic tests will be run, and can include:
- Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis - Will be used to look for cancerous cells within the spine.
- Radiological imaging studies - Will assist the doctor in identifying the location of the tumor.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) - The most helpful diagnostic tool - will allow the doctor to view the tumor's structure, exact location and size in relation to the spinal cord.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan - Helps the doctor look for tumor lesions in other areas of the body. If the spine tumor is believed to originate from outside the spinal cord, this is an important tool.
- Biopsy - After identifying the location of the tumor, your child's doctor will take a piece to analyze it and then be able to provide an exact classification of the tumor.