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Spinal Column Tumors Treatment

What Are Spinal Column Tumors?

Spinal column tumors, also called vertebral column tumors, are abnormal growths of tissue found on the backbone (which is made up of vertebrae). Spinal column tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Most commonly, particularly in people age 40 and older, spinal column tumors are metastatic.This means the tumors have spread from another part of the body where the cancer first started, such as the breasts, lungs or colon.

Symptoms may include pain in the neck or back, as well as neurological symptoms such as muscle weakness, loss of sensation, shooting pain in the leg or arm, or bladder and bowel problems.

The first test to diagnose spinal column tumors is a neurological examination. Special imaging techniques (computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography) may also be used. Laboratory tests include the EEG and spinal tap. A biopsy, a surgical procedure in which a sample of tissue is taken from a suspected tumor, helps doctors diagnose this type of tumor.

What Is the Treatment?

If spinal column tumors are metastatic, they grow quickly. Typically surgery cannot significantly stop their growth. However, it may be used to reduce the size of the tumor, which can lessen pain and also relieve pressure on the spinal cord, maintaining better stability of the spine.

Surgical procedures that replace the vertebrae with an implant or that fuse the vertebrae, can also help restore stability and relieve pain. For other patients, radiation therapy may be used instead of surgery to shrink the size of the tumor and decrease pain.