Spinal Tumors

A spinal tumor diagnosis can seem scary, but many such tumors are treatable. Finding the right Tampa Bay spine surgeon is crucial in treating your tumor and improving your quality of life.

A mass that originates in the spinal cord is known as a spinal cord tumor, while a growth affecting the spine’s vertebrae is called a vertebral tumor. Spinal tumors often result from cancer’s spread from another organ. Whether a spinal tumor is malignant or benign, this type of spinal cord injury can cause paralysis, loss of neurological function, and other disabilities.

Spinal Tumor Symptoms

Patients suffering from spinal tumors often experience more than severe back pain. The following symptoms may indicate the presence of a spinal tumor:

  • Neck pain
  • Change in bladder and bowel habits
  • Weakness in the arms and legs
  • Difficulty walking or pain when standing
  • Less sensitivity to heat and cold
  • Development of spinal deformities, such as a hunched back
  • Pain worsening at night, and especially strong upon waking
  • Paralysis
  • Pain accompanied by appetite and/or weight loss, nausea and chills.

Types of Spinal Tumors

Primary spinal tumors – those that do not originate in other parts of the body – form in the spine’s bones or discs. Osteosarcoma is the most common type of primary spinal tumor. Intradural-Extramedullary tumors are often benign. These growths include meningiomas, which arise in spinal cord membranes, and nerve sheath tumors. The latter are divided into neurofibromas and schwannomas and affect the nerve roots.

Intramedullary tumors often start out in the glial cells, which support the nervous system. Astrocytomas are the most common type of intramedullary tumor, affecting the spinal cord and brain. Ependymomas arise from a central nervous system tissue. Metastatic tumors spread to the spine from other areas. In men, such tumors are generally related to prostate or lung cancer. In women, the lung or breast is usually the source of the tumor.

Cancerous spinal tumors tend to grow more quickly, while benign tumors of the spine grow more slowly. However, rate of growth can vary in cancerous and non-cancerous tumors. A spinal tumor diagnosis is made through the use of X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computerized tomography (CAT) scan.


Treatment depends on the type of tumor and the extent of any metastasis. Pain control is also a very important aspect of treatment. Spinal tumors are complex, so treatments are tailored to the individual patient.

Removing a spinal tumor requires a skilled surgeon. Ideally, as much of the tumor as possible is removed, without harming other parts of the spine. The goal is to protect neurological activity, so stringent monitoring is conducted throughout the surgery to assess spinal cord function. Some patients may undergo a spinal fusion after tumor removal to stabilize the spine.

Following surgery, some patients may receive radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Other patients may receive radiation therapy in lieu of surgery. In either situation, radiation helps relieve pressure on the spinal cord.

How a Spine Surgeon Can Help

Each patient and each tumor are unique. The right surgeon determines whether surgery is necessary in the first place, and then customizes treatment for that particular patient.

If the tumor is malignant, the right surgeon will work with your primary oncologist, radiation oncologist, and other healthcare professionals to devise a course of treatment. For more information on spinal tumors and treatment, contact an experienced Tampa Bay spine surgeon to help you make the right decision.