Spinal Tumors - Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment at Mercy in Baltimore

Neurosurgery at Mercy - Baltimore, MD

Spinal tumors, or abnormal growths within the spinal canal or bones of the spine, are treated by experienced neurosurgeons at Mercy's Minimally Invasive Brain and Spine Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

About the Condition

Spinal tumors are abnormal growths on the spine that can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). These tumors can develop on the cervical, thoracic or lumbar regions of the spine as well as the on the sacrum, a bone at the base of the spine. Spinal tumors are classified into two major groups:

  • Intramedullary - tumors that grow within the spinal cord, often within the cervical or neck region
  • Extramedullary - tumors that develop on the spine - outside of the spinal cord, however these tumors may still affect the spinal cord

The majority of malignant spinal tumors are metastatic, meaning the spine is not the primary site of the cancer. Cancer of the lungs, breasts, colon, prostate, kidneys or thyroid can spread to the spine. 

NEXT: Symptoms & Diagnostic Process ›
Symptoms & Diagnostic Process

Both malignant (cancerous) and benign (non-cancerous) spinal tumors can cause pain or serious problems. Symptoms for spinal tumors often depend on several factors:

  • Location on the spine
  • Rate of growth
  • Type of tumor

Generally, pain in the neck or back coupled with or followed by neurological issues (numbness or weakness in the arms or legs) can be symptoms of spinal tumors. Additional symptoms may include:

  • Bladder or bowel problems - loss of function
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty walking

The following tests can help to confirm a diagnosis of a spinal tumor:

  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • X-ray
  • Biopsy
NEXT: Treatment Options ›
Treatment Options

Spinal tumor treatment is dependent on several factors including:

  • Type of tumor
  • Whether or not the tumor has spread from another part of the body
  • Age and overall health

Treatment for spinal tumors includes both non-surgical as well as surgical approaches and in some cases these treatments may be used in combination with one another.

Non-surgical - includes medication, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapies - often aimed at reducing symptoms and/or shrinking the tumor. In some cases monitoring the tumor without treatment may be recommended, typically for only for small, non-cancerous tumors that do not yet cause symptoms. 

Surgical - Spine surgery is delicate and often complex surgery due to the proximity to nerves and the spinal cord. Depending on the type of tumor and its location differing surgical techniques may be used to either completely or partially remove the tumor or restore neurological function when possible.