Spine Tumors Spine Tumors

Spine Tumors

A tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells. Cells like these don’t receive signals to turn off, or stop growing, so they keep multiplying. A spine tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue along your spinal column, which is the column of nerve tissue surrounded by your backbones (vertebrae).

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, about 10,000 people in the United States develop primary or metastatic spinal cord tumors each year.


Symptoms of a spine tumor are pain, numbness, less sensitivity to cold or heat, and paralysis. An early sign is pain in your back or pain that spreads from your back to your arms and legs. You may experience weakness in your legs or have trouble walking or have changes to your bowel or urinary habits.

If back pain is persistent or progressive, unusual for you or unrelated to any physical activity or injury, see a doctor for a thorough evaluation.



Causes of primary spine tumors are unknown. Most extradural spine tumors are metastatic; that is, they have spread from cancer in a different area of your body, notably your kidney, breast, prostate or lung. Intradural tumors, which are mostly benign, are less common.


Living Better

If you’ve gone through treatment for a spine tumor, your best path to feeling and living better is to make sure you take the proper time to recover and rehabilitate. A physical therapist, working with your team, will help you regain strength.

If your tumor can’t be treated, or you are living with one while treatment is being discussed or evaluated, you may want to reach out to others for emotional support. Relaxation exercises and acupuncture for any nausea that you are experiencing as a result of treatment might be helpful, as will keeping your stress level low.


Exams and Tests

Your physician at St. Luke’s Brain and Spine Tumor Center will take your complete medical history and ask specific questions about your symptoms. A physical examination will be performed, as well as a neurological exam that tests your reflexes and senses.

For spinal tumors, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is the preferred tool. The three-dimensional images produced can show your neurologist and neurosurgeon the tissue, bone and other areas that might be affected if a tumor is present. If a tumor is found, a biopsy may be performed to get more information about the specific kinds of cells involved.



Your St. Luke’s physicians will put together a detailed treatment plan that depends on the tumor, its type and location, any riskr not acting, your age, gender and general health. If your tumor is a primary one, the goal will be to remove it completely, if possible. If your tumor is metastatic, your treatment will depend on the progression of your primary cancer; it may be palliative, aimed at relieving your symptoms and improving your quality of life.

Size, rate of growth, symptoms, and all other factors considered, your team may decide that your best course of action is to monitor the tumor for a while with periodic MRI scans.

Or, if your team decides that intervention is necessary, there are several avenues that might be taken, again dependent on the type of tumor and its location. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also be employed. If the tumor proves resistant to either chemotherapy or radiation, surgery can be used.