Spinal Tumor

What is a spinal tumor?

A spinal tumor is an abnormal growth within the spine.  These growths may be cancerous or non-cancerous but either way pose serious health risks as their growth puts pressure on sensitive tissues.

What causes it?

The exact cause of spinal tumors is unknown.  Many experts suspect that they may be caused by genetic defects or exposure to environmental factors.  It is also thought that the presence of certain inherited diseases may be a cause.

What are the symptoms of a spinal tumor?

  • Back pain
  • Loss of feeling or sensitivity
  • Impaired bowel or bladder function
  • Weakness

How are spinal tumors diagnosed?

Diagnosing spinal tumors can be difficult because the symptoms can be similar to other, more common conditions.  Therefore, it’s important that your doctor be aware of your complete medical history in addition to performing physical and neurological exams.

Imaging is also helpful in diagnosing spinal tumors.  Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) scans may be used.   Your physician may also need to perform a biopsy to collect a tissue sample for testing.

What are the treatments for a spinal tumor?

The primary goal of treatment is to completely eliminate the tumor.  This can often be difficult depending on the location, size, and type of tumor.  Treatments can sometimes pose risks of permanent damage to the spinal cord and other tissue.  Your physician will discuss the benefits and risks of different treatment options.

If the tumor is detected before the appearance of symptoms and is thought to be benign,  your physician may recommend monitoring the tumor for changes rather than pursuing more aggressive, riskier options.

Another treatment option is surgery to remove the tumor.  Advanced techniques allow your physician to effectively remove the tumor while minimizing risks for complications.

Unfortunately, surgery cannot completely remove all spinal tumors.  In these cases radiation therapy may be utilized to eliminate tumors that couldn’t be removed by surgery.  This treatment may also be utilized to initially treat cancerous tumors.

Chemotherapy is a standard treatment for cancer and may be used in the treatment of spinal tumors as well.

Your physician may also prescribe other medication such as steroids to help manage the symptoms associated with the tumor or treatments.

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