Spine tumors are abnormal growths of tissue found inside the spinal column. Tumors that originate in the spine are called primary tumors and are rare. They can either be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). The majority of tumors results from uncontrolled growth among cells that reside in the spinal column while some tumors are related to a specific disease or to radiation exposure. However, the cause behind most spine tumors is unknown and they are neither contagious nor preventable.
Symptoms of Spine Tumors
The most common symptom of a spine tumor is back pain that is not improved by rest. Other symptoms include:
- Sciatica - refers to pain or discomfort associated with the sciatic nerve. This nerve runs from the lower part of the spinal cord, down the back of the leg, to the foot. Injury to or pressure on the sciatic nerve can cause the characteristic pain of sciatica: a sharp or burning pain that radiates from the lower back or hip, possibly following the path of the sciatic nerve to the foot.
- Partial paralysis - Paralysis that may occur in varying degrees and in different parts of your body, depending on which nerves are compressed
- Spinal deformity
- Difficulty controlling bladder/ Loss of bowel or bladder function
- Back pain, often radiating to other parts of your body and worse at night
- Loss of sensation or muscle weakness, especially in your legs
- Difficulty walking, sometimes leading to falls
- Decreased sensitivity to pain, heat and cold
Spine Tumor Diagnosis
A complete medical history and physical examination are critical to ensure accurate diagnosis and treatment of spinal cord tumors.
MRI, CT scan, Biopsy and/or Myelogram can help identify spine tumors.
Treatments of Spine Tumors
Pain and swelling can be managed through the use of analgesics and steroids. Your doctor may recommend you wear a brace to increase spinal stability and minimize pain. Depending on the type of spine tumor, the tumor’s location, and your medical condition, treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or surgical removal of the tumor. If surgical removal is not possible due to the tumor’s location, your doctor may perform embolization, which limits blood flow to the tumor.
If spine surgery is required, your doctor may remove all or only part of the spine tumor. Surgery is typically recommended when:
- Other treatments have failed to relieve pain.
- Spine stabilization is necessary.
- Some spinal vertebrae have destructed.
- A biopsy is needed.
- Nerves are compressed.
To find a spine surgeon at Methodist Healthcare, please call 888.777.5959 or use our physician locator.