Cauda Equina Syndrome is commonly caused by a traumatic injury that compresses the spine, putting pressure upon the bundle of nerves located at the bottom of the spinal cord. However, this is not the only way in which the condition can arise; there are in fact a number of factors that can cause Cauda Equina Syndrome, one of which is cancer.
Tumours and Cauda Equina Syndrome
Cancerous tumours can lead to Cauda Equina Syndrome in one of two ways:-
1. A patient develops an isolated primary tumour at the bottom of the spine;
2. A patient develops a primary tumour elsewhere in the body (usually the lungs or prostrate in men and the lungs or breasts in women) which then spreads to the spine. These are called metastases or secondary tumours.
Whether it is primary or secondary cancer, a tumour at the bottom of the spine will press upon the nerve roots, causing spinal compression (or Cauda Equina Syndrome, as it is medically known). A patient will soon begin to experience sciatic-like symptoms including severe leg and lower back pain and reduced mobility. As the tumour continues to grow, these symptoms will become more apparent, while weakness in the legs, loss of bowel and bladder control, loss of sensation and sexual dysfunction will also occur.
Diagnosing Spinal Tumours
If a patient is presenting with these symptoms, doctors should immediately recognise them as the signs typical of spinal compression. Urgent tests should then be carried out to verify whether or not Cauda Equina Syndrome is present, and if so, what the underlying cause is. An MRI scan will be particularly useful in detecting a spinal tumour, while blood tests and an x-ray may also be needed.
Once a tumour has been diagnosed, it is important treatment is commenced as soon as possible. This is because the longer a tumour presses on the nerves, the greater the damage will be. If left for too long, the extent of injury will be severe, potentially causing permanent complications. In addition to the prospect of irreparable nerve damage, a quick diagnosis will also ensure a tumour is found in the early stages, thereby giving a patient the best chance of making a successful recovery.
Delay in Diagnosing Spinal Tumours
If, however, there is a delay in diagnosing a spinal tumour, a patient will suffer two consequences: firstly, the tumour will be allowed time to grow, potentially necessitating a more aggressive form of treatment and even shortening a patient’s life expectancy. Secondly, the extent of nerve damage will be severe, leaving long-term neurological complaints such as bladder/bowel dysfunction, loss of sensation and even paralysis.
If this has happened to you or your loved one, you need to contact a solicitor, as a delay in diagnosis may amount to a substandard level of care. If so, you will be entitled to claim compensation for the injuries you have been caused.