There are several different types of tumors that can affect the spine. Spinal tumors may cause symptoms by pressing on the spinal cord or nerves. Patients may present with back pain, weakness, difficulty walking or imbalance. MRI scans are the chief test to diagnose these tumors.
Spinal meningiomas are benign tumors of the membranes around the spinal cord. These slow-growing tumors are most often seen in women and are usually located in the thoracic spine. Spinal meningiomas may cause pain by pressing on nerve roots or may cause leg weakness or numbness if there is pressure on the spinal cord. In patients with spinal cord compression, surgery is generally recommended. While there is potential risk in any surgery, in the vast majority of cases the tumor can be removed without neurologic deficit. Microsurgical technique, as well as use of lasers, are used in ours surgeries to aid in the safe removal of the tumor. Hospital stay is generally 2-4 days.
Schwannomas or neurofibromas are benign tumors of the spinal nerves. These nerve tumors can occur anywhere throughout the spine as well as in peripheral nerves. They typically cause pain along the nerve root similar to a “pinched nerve.” In patients with symptomatic nerve tumors or in patients with spinal cord compression, surgery is often recommended. Depending on the location and size of the tumor, surgery can often be done in a minimally invasive fashion.
Metastatic Spinal Tumors:
Metastatic spinal tumors are a relatively common finding. Patients may present with pain or neurologic deficit. An MRI scan is typically used to diagnose metastatic spinal tumors. Depending on the extent of tumor involvement, pressure on the spinal cord or neurologic deficit, several treatments options may be considered. Surgery may be required in patients with spinal instability or significant spinal cord compression. Radiation therapy is also used in many patients with metastatic spinal tumors.