Treating Back and Spine Tumors

Spine tumors are abnormal growths of tissue found inside the spinal column. Tumors that originate in the spine are called primary tumors and most often must be treated with surgery. Two types are schwannomas and meningiomas. 

Spinal schwannomas arise from nerves within the spinal canal and represent about 30 percent of such lesions. The cervical and lumbar regions are the most likely areas for a schwannoma to appear. They are far less common in the thoracic spine.

A meningioma starts in the outer linings of the brain or spinal cord. They are more common in adults. Most meningiomas can be removed with surgery, although some may come back.

A secondary or metastatic tumor results from spine cancer originating in another part of the body. This is a malignant tumor and is classified by its location in the spine (cervical, thoracic, lumbar or sacrum). The types of cancer that most frequently lead to a spine tumor include:

  • lung cancer 
  • breast cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • thyroid cancer
  • kidney cancer 

The most common symptom of a spine tumor is back pain that is not improved by rest. Other symptoms include:

  • sciatica
  • numbness
  • partial paralysis
  • spinal deformity
  • difficulty controlling bladder 
  • fever

Unless treated, the symptoms will worsen over time.

Spinal Tumor Treatment Options

Spinal tumor treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or surgical removal of the tumor depending on its type and location. If surgical removal is not possible due to the tumor's location, your doctor may perform spinal embolization, which limits blood flow to the tumor.