Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment for Spinal Tumors

A spinal tumor is an abnormal growth of cells within or surrounding your spinal cord or spinal column. Spinal tumors can be cancerous or non-cancerous. Primary spinal tumors first grow on your spinal column. The ones arising from cancer spreading from another body site to your spine are called metastatic or secondary spinal tumors. Some tumors do not show symptoms, which is why it is important to visit Jeff Pan M.D. for diagnostic tests from time to time.  


It is not clear what causes spinal tumors. Experts say that defective genes can play a role in the occurrence of spinal tumors. Environmental factors like exposure to certain chemicals can cause these tumors. Sometimes doctors link them to known inherited syndromes such as neurofibromatosis 2.


Spinal tumor symptoms vary depending on the type and location of your tumor. These symptoms include: Back and neck pains are the most common signs. Spinal tumors change the alignment of the affected spine leading to pain. Spinal tumors can cause neurologic problems like paralysis, walking difficulties, bowel and bladder disorders, spinal cord compression, numbness, muscle weakness, and pinching of your nerve roots.


Your doctor can do various medical tests to determine the type and cause of your spinal tumors, which include:

X-ray: X-rays use radiation to produce a picture of your vertebral structure and outline the joints. Spine x-rays can determine the cause of pain, such as tumors and fractures. However, they are not very accurate in diagnosing tumors.

Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan): CT or CAT can expound the details of the image produced after an X-ray. It shows the shape and size of the spinal cord, its contents, and its structures. Doctors can also use it to visualize bony structures.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI uses powerful magnets and computers to produce three-dimensional images of your body structures. It can show your spinal cord, nerve roots, and areas within. It also indicates enlargement, degeneration, and tumors.

Bone scan: Bone scan is a diagnostic test that uses Tchnectium-99. It identifies bone tumors, infections, and conditions that involve abnormal bone metabolism.


Treatment for spinal tumors is based on tumor type and aggressiveness. Treatment is either surgical or the use of non-surgical treatments.

Non-surgical treatments

The use of steroids, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are the non-surgical treatments for spinal tumors. Some tumors respond well to chemotherapy and others to radiation therapy. Steroids reduce swelling and neck or back pain.


Doctors will consider surgery when a tumor is resistant to non-surgical treatments. Intractable pain, spinal cord compression, and pathological features that require stabilization are situations that may involve surgery. Specialists can remove Non-metastatic spinal tumors through complete en bloc resection for an effective cure. Metastatic tumors involve palliative treatment to restore and preserve neurological function, stabilize the spine and alleviate pain.

Recovery from spinal tumors depends on your age, overall health, and the type of tumor affecting you. Call the office of Jeff Pan, MD, to schedule an appointment for spinal tumors with a qualified and highly experienced neurosurgeon.