Life after cancer of the spinal cord: What next?

After treatment for cancer of the spinal cord, you may be left with some lasting physical effects. Or you may not. For many cancer survivors, it can be hard to return to “life as usual” after treatment. The possibility of the cancer coming back or a tumor growing again after going into partial remission can make it difficult to make plans for the future. 

In truth, survivors today are living longer, with a higher quality of life than in the past. There are a few extra precautions you should take as a survivor of a spinal tumor. And there’s plenty of reason to have hope! This article will cover what you need to know about making the most out of life after cancer of the spinal cord.

How will my life be affected by cancer of the spinal cord?

Any immediate side effects you have will depend on the size of your tumor, the type of tumor, where it was located and the treatments you received. These can include nerve damage, scar tissue, incontinence, paralysis, or changes in your skin and hair. You may not know the full extent of the effects until your treatment is over. If the tumor can’t be removed, you may need radiation therapy, chemotherapy or other treatments to try to keep the tumor from growing and limit your symptoms. Sometimes these tumors can go into remission. 

Managing the uncertainty of life after cancer can be the most difficult thing for some. Your care team will give you a survivorship care plan that includes specific instructions and follow-up dates. Following this closely, showing up to all follow-up appointments and getting cancer screenings every few years will help ensure that you have the lowest chance of recurrence. Taking care of your health by eating a balanced diet, exercising, and getting enough rest is important for all cancer survivors. 

Effects of spinal cancer and treatments

As you may know, cancer of the spinal cord can cause pain, numbness, and weakness. Cancer treatments come with their own side effects as well. Radiation can damage the bones of your spine, causing paralysis, a change in the shape of your spine, a reduction in height, or incontinence. It can also raise your risk of fracturing vertebrae. If any of your treatments have caused nerve damage, you may feel sensations like an electric shock spreading down your arms or legs. If you have any signs of spinal cord damage or new back pain, let your doctor know right away. You may need imaging tests to determine the cause.

Some cancers can come with late effects that show up months or years after treatment. These can be issues with your physical health or psychological, emotional and practical challenges. Your doctor will tell you what late effects you’re at risk for and what symptoms to look out for. 

What are the survival rates for cancer of the spinal cord?

The survival rates for cancer of the spinal cord depend on certain factors. These include the type of spinal cord tumor, its grade and prognostic factors, the patient’s age and general health, and how well the treatments work. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the five-year relative survival rate for a central nervous system tumor is close to 36%. The 10-year survival rate is over 30%.

Moving forward after cancer of the spinal cord

Working with a psychotherapist you feel comfortable with and staying socially connected can help you stay motivated to live the fullest life possible. If you do some rehabilitation work with a physical therapist or an occupational therapist, they’ll be cheering you on, too. But your fellow cancer survivors will be some of your best allies in managing life after cancer. Finding small pleasures and making room for joy in your life really does make a big difference.

If you have had cancer, maintain good records of the treatments you had and your financial arrangements. You may need to refer to them later for many different reasons, for instance, if there’s an error with your insurance or your doctor asks about a specific part of your history. 

Rehabilitate after cancer of the spinal cord at Ability KC

So what’s next for you? You don’t have to know right this minute. Again, finding connection with others can help you stay grounded and motivated after cancer treatment. You may not be able to do everything you used to do right away, like driving your car. We’ve built a caring community around the basic principles of living independently, reaching your fullest potential, and giving and receiving support from others on their own healing journeys. 

We’ve helped people recover from spinal cord diseases using advanced treatments and cutting-edge technology. Each patient works with a large care team and gets a personalized treatment plan based on their needs and rehabilitation goals. Our day rehabilitation program and outpatient services include powerful support groups where individuals share new insights and receive validation every day. 

You can learn more about the types of insurance we accept and our admissions process online. Still have questions? Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.