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Spinal Cancer

Easy Read Information

Your spine is the bones down the middle of your back. Spinal Cancer is the cancer of spine.

This page has information about:

  • The tests we do to see if you have Spinal Cancer
  • The different ways that we treat the disease
  • The support that is on offer

Who we are

We are a recognised regional centre for spinal tumours in Merseyside and Cheshire. We provide quick diagnosis and expert treatment using the latest techniques.

What we do

If you come to the hospital you can expect:

Experts giving you the best treatment - Specialists from different medical areas meet weekly. This is called a multi-disciplinary team meeting (MDT) and is central to the way we work. The MDT advise, support and create treatment plans that are personalised for every patient.

Specialist surgery - As one of the specialist treatment centres for spinal tumours, we offer complex surgical procedures that are not available at other hospitals.

Being referred to us

Spinal Cancer diagnosis - Your doctor (GP) will send you to hospital for further investigation if you have spinal tumour symptoms like:

  • back and neck pain
  • numbness, tingling and weakness in either the arms or legs
  • clumsiness and difficulty in walking
  • loss of control of the bladder and bowel (incontinence).

Spinal tumours are also found by accident when patients have hospital scans for something completely different. We see all patients for a clinic appointment within two weeks of getting the doctor’s referral.

What happens when you see us

We perform a series of investigations to find out why you have been having symptoms. These include:

  • CT scan (computerised tomography scan): A CT scanner takes lots of x-rays of the body. A computer is then used to build a 3D picture of inside the body. The scan is painless and takes from 10–30 minutes. You will be asked not to eat or drink for at least four hours before the scan. A CT scan may be used to identify the exact tumour location, or to check for any cancer spread.Most people who have a CT scan are given a drink or injection to allow particular areas to be seen more clearly.
  • MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging scan): This is similar to a CT scan , but uses magnetism instead of x-rays to make a detailed picture of your body. Some people are given an injection of dye into a vein in the arm, but this usually does not cause any discomfort.
  • Bone Scan: A bone scan helps us diagnose any tumour spots in other bones that may need treatment. A bone scan can provide more detailed information about the inside of your bones than an X-ray. It involves a small amount of radioactive material being injected into your veins. Abnormal areas of bone will absorb the material at a faster rate than normal bone. Any abnormal areas of bone that are affected by cancer will show up as ‘hot-spots’ on the scan.

Test results

It may take up to two weeks for your test results to come through. This depends on the types of tests you have at the hospital. The test results will be discussed in the multi-disciplinary team meeting. A full explanation of all results and possible treatment pathways will be explained to you after this meeting.

What happens next

Your test results are discussed by the multi-disciplinary team (MDT). This is a team of doctors and health professionals who specialise in different aspects of treating spinal tumours.

The MDT gives advice on treatment options that would benefit you the most. Of course, you have the final decision about the type of treatment you receive.

Treatment starts as soon as possible after the cancer is discovered.

Spinal tumour treatment types

  • Surgery: The aim of surgery is to stabilize the spine, protect the spinal cord and maintain function and pain control. Sometimes it is possible to remove spinal tumours completely. However, if this is not possible, some of the tumour may be removed. A sample of cells from the tumour (biopsy) is also taken to be examined by a tissue expert (pathologist) under a microscope. The pathologist is able to find out the type of tumour by this process. This will then determine further treatment.
  • Chemotherapy: Some patients are given chemotherapy. It uses anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells or prevent their growth. It can be given as injections or in the form of tablets. Again, this is under supervision of an oncologist at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.
  • Radiotherapy: This uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. It is given by directing radiotherapy rays at the tumour from outside the body. It is used to treat spinal tumours that have not been completely removed with surgery or if the tumour comes back after initial treatment. It can also be used to relieve symptoms. Radiotherapy is given at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. Some patients are given chemotherapy. It uses anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells or prevent their growth. It can be given as injections or in the form of tablets. Again, this is under supervision of an oncologist at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.
  • Combination treatment: Some patients are given a combination of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. All of these treatments have side-effects, which will be discussed with you prior to treatment.
  • Steroids: Steroids are chemicals that are naturally produced in the body. Steroids are given as tablets or by injection and can reduce the swelling that often surrounds spinal tumours. Steroids do not treat the tumour itself. However, they can improve symptoms and make you feel better.

The team

Members of the MDT include:

  • consultant surgeons specialising in the care of patients with spinal tumours
  • consultant radiologists who interpret scans, perform biopsies and minimally invasive treatment for spinal tumours
  • a clinical oncologist specialising in the non-surgical treatment of cancer using techniques such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy
  • a specialist in diseased tissue (pathologist)

How to contact us

Contact Details for the Cancer Team : 0151 706 2000

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