Spinal Tumor

What are the types of Spinal cord Tumors?

A growth that develops within the spinal canal or within the spine bones is called spinal tumor. It can be benign or malignant. If the tumors affect the vertebrae or bones of the spine, it is called ‘vertebral tumors’. The spinal cord tumors begin with the spinal cord itself. Two types of tumors that may affect the spinal cord are:

  • Intramedullary tumors
  • Extramedullary tumors

What causes spinal cord tumors?

Spinal cord tumors may cause pain, neurological problems and even paralysis. No matter if the spinal tumor is cancerous or not, it can cause permanent disability in patients.The exact cause of spinal cord tumors is not yet clear to the experts. Defectives genes are suspected to cause some cases. However, it is also connected with other inherited syndromes.

Spinal Cord Tumor Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of spinal tumor may vary according to the location and type of tumor.A common and early symptom of non-cancerous and cancerous spinal tumor is back pain. Spinal tumors that are cancerous will grow very quickly and non-cancerous will grow slowly.

Some of the common Spinal Cord Tumor Symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness in different parts of the body
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Back pain
  • Loss of sensation in the legs, arms and other parts of the body
  • Loss of bladder or bowel function
  • Decreased sensitivity to cold, heat and pain

How are spinal tumors diagnosed?

Spinal tumors cannot be diagnosed at the first sight during the physical examination. So, it is important to carry out a thorough medical checkup. If one is suspected to have a spinal tumor, the doctor will suggest the following tests:

  • CT
  • Spinal magnetic resonance imaging
  • Biopsy

How are spinal tumors treated?


Taking of steroids will help to reduce the swelling around the tumor. Steroids will also help to stop the damages caused by the tumor from becoming permanent. After the surgery for the removal of the tumor your surgeon may advice you to take steroids for some time for helping the shrinkage of the tumor.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is advised only for patients who are having secondary type of spine cancer. Patients with spinal code tumors of the primary type do not need radiation therapy.


Chemotherapy is a treatment option for cancer patients in which drugs are used to kill the cancerous cells. In chemotherapy a drug or a combination of drugs are given for certain time period. After the completion of the recovery period for the drugs already taken another cycle is started. Patients are need not be admitted to the hospital. Most drugs can be given in the doctor’s office itself or in an outpatient unit. Depending upon the drugs given and the general health of the patient a small hospital stay will be necessary.

What are the Surgical Procedures for Spine Tumor?

  Spinal tumors cannot be diagnosed at the first sight during the physical examination. So, it is important to carry out a thorough medical checkup. If one is suspected to have a spinal tumor, the doctor will suggest the following tests:

  • CT
  • Spinal magnetic resonance imaging
  • Biopsy

The main objective of the treatment is to eliminate the tumor completely from the patient’s body. But, it is challenging. Treatment will be decided based on the age and overall health of the patient. Treatment options for the spinal tumor include:


Monitoring Sometimes, spinal tumors may be diagnosed while examining for other condition. Early diagnosis and care will be enough for such non-cancerous tumors that does not cure any harm to the surrounding tumors.


Tumors that can be removed without much risk will only be chosen for surgery. Advanced medical techniques like microscopic surgeries nowadays allow the surgeons to reach the inaccessible tumors. During microscopic surgery, the doctor will be able to see the functions of spinal cord and other important nerves. In some cases, the surgeon may use high-frequency sound waves may also be used to break the tumor.

Radiation therapy

When the tumors cannot be moved completely with surgery, the surgeon may use radiation therapy. It will eliminate the fragments of tumors after the surgery. It can also be used to treat the inoperable tumors or those that are risky for surgery. Radiation therapy can also be used as a pain reliever.

Stereotactic radiation surgery

It is a procedure which use high dose of specifically targeted radiation. Computers are used to focus radiation beams on tumors. It will help to define the tumor accurately from different angles. Stereotactic radiation surgery has proved to be effective for treating spinal and vertebral tumors.


Chemotherapy is considered to be a standard treatment for various other types of cancers. Medications used in chemotherapy destroys cells that causes cancer. Chemotherapy is applied alone and along with radiation therapy.


Drugs are prescribed to reduce the discomforts caused by other treatment options.The role of surgery in removing spine tumors is controversial. Latest developments in imaging techniques and new surgical tools like ultrasonic aspirators and lasers have increased the scope of surgical procedures in spinal cancers. Neuro surgeons may perform surgery in some patients to stabilize spine and to allow improved functioning of the bowel and bladder. Usually surgeons recommend surgery for patients who are having a single metastatic tumor without any evidence of tumor growing anywhere else in the body.

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