NHS explain the best ways to treat back pain

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Having made his film debut in the silent cinema, the actor went on to star in around three dozen films in his career. Having been dubbed “Britain’s biggest forgotten star” due to the likes of Fred Astaire dominating the screen and stage, it was the sad demise of Buchanan or “Mr Mayfair” as he became known, that got some attention as it was so unexpected.

The star’s health problems first began before his appearance in The Band Wagon. Having suffered initially from a spinal cord injury which quickly turned into spinal arthritis, Buchanan must have been in severe pain.

Despite this his flawless performance and ability to dance alongside Astaire shone through in the film, contributing to its success.

Sadly however, the inflammatory disorder, which affected the joints between his spine and pelvis was the least of his trouble as he later developed spinal cancer, which would eventually lead to his death.

Cancer Research UK explains that spinal cord tumours are indeed rare but when they strike they primarily affect a “long bundle of nerves” that stretches from the brain to the lower part of the back.

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The star’s health problems first began before his appearance in The Band Wagon. Having suffered initially from a spinal cord injury which quickly turned into spinal arthritis, Buchanan must have been in severe pain.

Despite this his flawless performance and ability to dance alongside Astaire shone through in the film, contributing to its success.

Sadly however, the inflammatory disorder, which affected the joints between his spine and pelvis was the least of his trouble as he later developed spinal cancer, which would eventually lead to his death.

Cancer Research UK explains that spinal cord tumours are indeed rare but when they strike they primarily affect a “long bundle of nerves” that stretches from the brain to the lower part of the back.

It is important to note that there are many different types of spinal tumours and not all of them are malignant (spinal cancer).

Primary spinal tumours originate in the spine. They are typically benign and represent a small percentage of spinal tumours. Malignant tumours on the other hand more often spread to the spine from other areas of the body, and are cancerous.

Most malignant tumours occur inside the spinal column, not affecting the spinal cord. But in some cases, spinal cancers can affect the spine. Listed by John Hopkins Medicine, these include:

  • Osteosarcoma: a type of bone cancer that may originate in the spine but is more common in the thigh and shin bones.
  • Chondrosarcoma: a tumour that arises from cartilage cells around the bone. Although uncommon in the spine, it can sometimes develop as a primary cancer in the bones that form the spinal column.
  • Multiple myeloma: a cancer that affects plasma cells in the blood. The affected cells collect in the bone marrow and the outer layer of the bone — often in the spine.
  • Lymphoma: a group of cancers that affect the cells of the immune system called lymphocytes. It may develop in the spine as a primary tumour, but more often it arises elsewhere and spreads to the spine.
  • Chordoma: a malignant bone tumour that can develop inside the spinal column anywhere along its length, however it is most commonly seen in the sacrum (a bone in the base of the spine).
  • Ewing sarcoma: a cancer that can affect both the bone and the surrounding soft tissue. It is rare in adults and represents about 1 percent of childhood cancers.

It remains unclear what type of tumour Buchanan suffered from, but it is reported that between 30 and 70 percent of cancer patients develop malignant spine cancer during the course of their disease. The most common cancers that tend to spread to the spine include: Lung, prostate, and breast.

Again due to the length of the spine, symptoms of spinal cancer can vary, especially as tumours grow. With the possibility to affect the nerve roots, blood vessels, and bones of the spine it is important that individuals are aware of the common cancer signs and symptoms.

Individuals may experience:

  • Pain at the site of the tumour due to tumour growth
  • Back pain, often radiating to other parts of your body
  • Feeling less sensitive to pain, heat and cold
  • Loss of bowel or bladder function
  • Difficulty walking, sometimes leading to falls
  • Back pain that’s worse at night
  • Loss of sensation or muscle weakness, especially in your arms or legs
  • Muscle weakness , which may be mild or severe, in different parts of your body.

As back pain can be caused by numerous factors, some of which are not a tumour, the Mayo Clinic advises that individuals seek medical advice if they are suffering from “persistent and progressive pain” and have no related history of cancer.

For example, as in Buchanan’s case, spine arthritis was a cause of a lot of his pain. This condition affects the facet joints in the spine and can be related to general wear and tear over time or related to other conditions. There is no current known relation to arthritis in this area and spine cancer.

Once diagnosed with spine cancer, individuals will be advised by medical professionals on the best course of treatment. If caught early and treated aggressively, it may be possible to prevent further loss of function and regain nerve function.

However, depending on the location, a tumour that presses against the spinal cord itself may be life-threatening causing permanent nerve damage.

The most common types of treatment to be used against spine cancer include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiotherapy
  • Steroids
  • Chemotherapy.

For noncancerous spinal tumours, treatment may not be needed if they are not causing any symptoms. In addition, some small spine cancers will be monitored before treatment with periodic observation from doctors.

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