A spinal tumor is a growth of abnormal tissue affecting the spinal cord. The term "primary" is used when the abnormal tissue originates within the spine. Should the abnormal tissue originate elsewhere in the body and later spread to the spine, the term "secondary" is used.
Spinal tumors can begin and occur in many places in the spine. The symptoms depend on the combination of the location, level, type of tumor, and general health. Tumors that have spread to the spine from another site (metastatic tumors) often progress quickly. Primary tumors may progress slowly over long periods of time. Symptoms may include changes in sensation pain, balance or walking, strength or incontinence of the bowel or bladder.
The goal of treatment is to stop ongoing neurological damage to the spinal cord, stabilize the vertebral column and minimize the risk of further difficulties.
A physician may recommend any of the following depending on unique situation:
- Corticosteroids and other medications may be given to reduce inflammation and swelling.
- Surgery may be needed to relieve compression on the spinal cord. Some tumors can be completely removed. In other cases, part of the tumor may be removed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord.
- Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be used with, or instead of, surgery. Learn more about treatment for cancerous tumors.
- Physical therapy and bracing may have roles in recovery phase.