Board-certified orthopedists Steve Paragioudakis, MD, and Marc Menkowitz, MD, at the Center for the Functional Restoration of the Spine (CFRS) offer outstanding diagnostic services and highly specialized care for conditions that affect your spine, including spinal tumors.
The CFRS team explains the nature of spinal tumors, symptoms to watch for, and the treatments available for these complex growths.
Understanding spinal tumors
A spinal tumor is an abnormal growth that can develop anywhere along the spine. The tumor may grow:
- Inside your spinal cord
- In the membranous tissue covering the spinal cord (meninges)
- Between the meninges and bones of the spine
- Within the vertically stacked bones of the spine (vertebrae)
A spinal tumor can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous). Tumors that first develop on the spine are primary tumors. Those that spread (metastasize) from cancer elsewhere in the body are secondary tumors. Most malignant spinal tumors are secondary tumors.
However, whether benign or malignant, a spinal tumor can cause considerable damage to nerves and bony structures of the spine. Thus, treatment focuses on eliminating the growth or significantly reducing tumor size.
What are the symptoms of a spinal tumor?
Symptoms of spinal tumors can vary depending on where the growth occurs (cervical, lumbar, thoracic, or sacral spine) and the type of tumor. A small tumor not yet involving nearby nerves or bony structures may have no symptoms at all.
However, pain is a common symptom often localized to the tumor site. Most spinal tumors develop in the mid or lower back. Discomfort related to a spinal tumor can worsen with lifting and other physical activities.
The pain is often described as deep and aching and tends to worsen over time, becoming constant as the tumor grows.
Other symptoms of a spinal tumor include:
- Back or neck stiffness
- Tingling pain radiating into the arms or legs
- Muscle weakness or numbness in the legs or arms
- Difficulty walking
- Loss of bowel or bladder function or control
- Decreased sensitivity to pain, heat, or cold
Most back pain is not related to spinal tumors. However, because early treatment is crucial to a successful outcome, schedule a visit at CFRS if you develop pain or other symptoms that persist or progress.
Treating spinal tumors
Pending the results of a physical exam and diagnostic evaluation that may include MRI and other advanced imaging studies, your CFRS provider and cancer care team (if applicable) may recommend a combination of surgical excision, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Your CFRS surgeon may recommend a round of radiation therapy for large growths to help shrink tumor size before you undergo surgical removal. Otherwise, surgery followed by radiation or chemotherapy can help reduce the risk of metastatic spread.
Any type of spine surgery is complex and requires significant precision. However, most conditions, including spinal tumors, qualify for minimally invasive surgery that reduces tissue trauma, blood loss, and recovery time following the procedure.
Schedule an evaluation at CFRS today if you’ve been diagnosed with a spinal tumor or require further evaluation for persistent back symptoms. Call the office or use our secure online service to request an appointment.