The thoracic spine is located between the cervical and lumbar regions of the back. Made up 12 vertebrae and associated cartilaginous discs, it is the largest area of the spine and serves as support for the ribs. When a tumor develops within this region of the body, be it malignant or benign, a great many problems can start to affect your health and well-being because of the nerves that gather within the spinal cord. Any sort of sort of pressure can impinge upon these nerves, resulting in a number of uncomfortable symptoms.
At the onset of a spinal cord tumor, it is possible to experience no symptoms at all. This is largely because of the size of the tumor, as a smaller growth won't necessarily place any pressure on those nerves. It is not until compression is placed on the nerves that symptoms appear.
Pain is one the most common symptoms of a thoracic spinal cord tumor. This pain often originates within the area of the tumor, but then can diffuse out into other areas of the body depending on the nerve or nerves affected by the growth. You may feel pain within the back, hips, leg or even chest and arms.
Depending on the size and location of the tumor, you may also begin to notice a change in your strength. You become weaker as the tumor presses into the nerves. Much like the symptom of pain, this weakness can affect any limb of the body, depending on the nerve affected by the growth. As time goes by, you may have trouble walking or carrying things, increasing the potential for falls.
Another fairly common symptom of a thoracic spinal cord tumor is numbness. This lack of feeling commonly affects the legs, but you may also experience a loss of sensation along any area of the body containing the pinched nerve. This numbness can also dampen your reaction to outside stimuli, affecting the way in which you feel heat, cold or pain.
In more severe cases of spinal tumors, you may begin to suffer from some level of paralysis within any limb that holds an affected nerve. And depending on the amount of compression, it can lead to a total loss of movement in one or both legs and one or both arms.
Incontinence is another potential symptom of a thoracic spinal cord tumor. In this situation, the bladder or the bowel essentially suffers a form of paralysis, causing you to lose control over your urine or stool.