Spinal tumors rarely occur and are either benign or malignant. Some tumors are known to metastasize (spread) via arteries, veins and the lymphatic system. Malignant tumors of the breast, prostate, lung and kidney can spread into the spine. Spinal tumors can be dangerous when they cause spinal canal compression, which may lead to neurologic dysfunction, e.g., paralysis.
Noncancerous (Benign) Spinal Tumors
Malignant Spinal Tumors
What are the symptoms?
Spine pain does not always indicate tumor presence. However, early medical intervention is always recommended if spine pain does not resolve or if neurologic deficit is experienced. Back pain is often seen as the primary symptom. The pain can occur at rest, be worse at night, and may or may not be related to activity. Other symptoms may include sciatica, numbness, paraparesis (slight paralysis), spinal deformity (e.g. scoliosis, kyphosis) and fever.
What are the treatment options?
If any tumor is found in the spine (and there is no other known cancer), a complete examination of all common organs where cancer develops is usually required. Evaluation may include complete medical history, complete physical exam, complete neurological exam, radiographic studies of the spine, chest and GI systems for tumors, and MRI and CAT scans.
Nonsurgical options are considered first-line treatment for many metastatic spinal tumor symptoms and tumor management. Nonsurgical options vary from medications to radiation therapy. Pain medications are typically prescribed at the onset of back pain. Other medications may be prescribed to treat other side effects of metastatic spine tumors. Back braces may also be used for symptom relief when mechanical pain develops as a result of spinal instability. Braces are often used in conjunction with other treatments.
Certain medication, radiation, ablation and chemotherapy treatments all aim to shrink and/or destroy tumor cells for pain relief. Surgical removal of a spine tumor is indicated for patients who may benefit from the tumor removal, either in terms of removing the cancer and/or lessening any severe symptoms associated with the tumor. There are many types of surgery that may be considered as part of treatment for a spinal tumor. In general, there are two categories of surgery: minimally invasive surgery (surgical approaches that include relatively small incisions) and open surgery (more extensive surgical procedures that require larger incisions).