for Patients

Spinal Tumor

Overview

A spinal tumor is an abnormal growth of cells in or around the spinal cord or spinal nerves. These tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

These tumors can affect the functions of blood vessels, vertebrae and other bones in the spine, meninges, nerve roots, and spinal cord. Benign or malignant, if unchecked, spinal tumors can cause permanent nerve or spinal cord damage. If malignant, tumors can spread to other parts of the body.

Causes

Benign and malignant tumors are caused by unregulated cell growth. Malignant tumors may originate in the spinal tissue, or have metastasized from cancer in another part of the body.

Spinal tumors can also be caused by Neurofibromatosis 2 or Von Hippel-Lindau disease, both hereditary conditions, or by a compromised immune system.

Symptoms

  • Back pain
  • Pain and numbness in other parts of the body, especially in the legs
  • Cold sensation in other parts of the body, often in fingers or hands
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control. If you have these symptoms, seek medical help immediately
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle weakness
  • Unexplained falling
  • Neurological problems
  • Paralysis

Diagnosis

First step toward diagnosis will be a physical exam by one of our physicians. A spinal tumor can also be diagnosed by spinal MRI, CT scan, myelogram or biopsy.

Treatment

We have several methods of treating spinal tumors.

  • Observation: If the tumor is benign, not growing and not causing any symptoms, we may simply monitor the tumor to make sure it doesn't change. 
  • Surgery: If surgery is required to remove a spinal tumor, treatment can often be provided with a minimally invasive surgical procedure. The procedure is completed either in our spine dedicated surgical center or the local spine accredited hospital.
  • Radiation therapy: If the tumor is malignant, radiation therapy may be used to treat tumors that cannot be reached by surgery. It can also be used post-surgery to treat parts of tumors that cannot be entirely removed.
  • Stereostactic radiosurgery (SRS): This method of delivering radiation targets the malignant spinal tumor very specifically from multiple angles.
  • Chemotherapy: Some spinal tumors are also treated by treating patients with medicines that shrink or stop tumors from growing.
  • Medication: We may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, usually steroids, to reduce the pain and swelling associated with a spinal tumor.