MICHAEL J FOX, famed for playing Marty McFly in Back to the Future, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991 at the age of 29. But this hasn’t been the only actor’s health setback – a few years later he found out there was a tumour on his spine.
Michael J Fox, 59, had a fast-growing tumour on his spine, but it was in fact noncancerous. While the tumour wasn’t cancerous, it caused horrible pain throughout his body. He told People magazine: “I was heading for paralysis if I didn’t get it operated on.”
The surgery to remove the tumour was risky.
He added the tumour “was constricting the [spinal] cord, so they had to be very careful in removing it so they wouldn’t do further damage.”
The operation was successful and Fox began a four-month process in which he had to learn to walk again.
Although rare, there are several types of tumour that can affect the spine.
“Spinal tumours that originate from the vertebra (bone), spinal cord or nerves are known as primary tumours,” explains University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
“There are also tumours that spread to the spine from cancer starting elsewhere in the body; these are called secondary tumours or metastases.
“Spinal tumours can cause pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerves and depending on where the tumour is in your spine, different areas of your body can be affected.”
Symptoms of spinal tumours may include pain in the neck, upper or lower back and in your arms or legs.
You can also experience numbness, tingling or weakness in the arms, legs, on your body or around your bottom.
Difficulty with balance and/or difficulty in walking may also occur
Occasionally people may have problems going to the toilet, such as controlling your bladder and/or bowel function.
Tests to diagnose a spinal tumour most typically include MRI and CT scans, advises the NHS Foundation Trust.
It adds: “You may need to have surgery to remove the tumour, or as much of the tumour as possible.
“You may also have radiotherapy or chemotherapy after surgery or as the main treatment depending on the type of tumour.
“Your doctor may also give you steroids to help control any symptoms.”
Fox started displaying symptoms of early-onset Parkinson’s disease in 1991 while shooting the movie Doc Hollywood. He was diagnosed shortly after.
His initial symptoms included a twitching little finger and a sore shoulder.
The star went public about his condition in 1998 and became a strong advocate of Parkinson’s disease research.
His foundation, The Michael J. Fox Foundation, was created to help advance research into curing the condition.
Fox manages his Parkinson’s symptoms with the drug carbidopa/levodopa.