Spine Tumors – Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Category: Spine Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: March 20, 2014

spine tumor surgerySpine tumors are growths that develop on or around the spinal cord and/or spinal column.  As with all tumors, they can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous) and can be either primary (originate within the spine) or metastatic (tumors that have spread from another site in the body). Whether or not a spinal tumor is malignant, it can still be dangerous and even life-threatening. As such, a qualified physician should examine the tumor and determine what action (if any) needs to be taken.

What Causes Spine Tumors?

The exact cause of spinal tumors is unknown at this time. They may be caused by exposure to chemicals and radiation, or perhaps from a person’s genes.

There are various types of tumors that can affect the spine and as stated above they are typically classified as being malignant vs benign and primary vs metastatic.

  • Primary tumors are those that originate in the spine or the spinal column. These tumors may be either benign or malignant.  Initial investigation is usually involves advanced spinal imaging and possibly even biopsies.
  • Metastatic tumors are those whose origins arise from another site in the body.  The most common primary sources of cancer to metastasize to the spine are bronchogenic, breast, prostatic, and renal carcinoma.

Symptoms of Spinal Tumors

Tumors in the spine can present with no symptoms whatsoever, or a litany of symptoms. A few common symptoms include:

  • Back pain with or without sciatica
  • Pain at night
  • Pain unrelated to activity
  • Unexplained weight loss

If any of the above matches your symptoms, it’s a good idea to set up an appointment with your physician. Diagnosis will likely consist of a physical exam combined with diagnostic imaging like an MRI, x-ray, CT scan, and perhaps even a biopsy.

Treatment Options

Treatment for spine tumors can involve surgery to remove the tumors, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and other methods. The ultimate goal of treating spinal tumors is to the cure the patient of the tumor.  Surgery is typically offered when the tumor has resulted in spinal deformity or instability, has affected the nerves or spinal cord, or there has been a failure to respond to other treatments such as radiation.

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