Spine cancer is relatively rare, occurring in less than 1% of Americans. Not every spine tumor is cancerous (malignant). Some tumors are benign (noncancerous), but because of the problems they can cause, they still need treatment.
As a leading spine neurosurgeon in Roseville, Minnesota, David Chang, MD-PhD, DABNS, tailors every spine tumor treatment plan to the needs of the individual patient, focusing on techniques that can improve your health as well as your quality of life.
Here’s what you should know about spine tumors, including common symptoms and treatment options.
Like other tumors, spine tumors are abnormal growths or masses of tissue with growth that’s not controlled by normal cell mechanisms. Spine tumors can form in the spine area, or they can metastasize or spread from other parts of the body.
Spine tumors can occur anywhere in the spine, including the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral portions (from neck to tailbone). They can also occur in different components of the spine, including:
They’re often referred to in terms of where they occur within these structures:
Spine tumors are relatively rare, and their cause is unknown. Researchers believe these tumors may be related to exposure to toxic agents as well as underlying genetics.
Because your spine carries nerves to the rest of your body, it’s not surprising that pain is the most common symptom of spine tumors. Pain can happen in your back near the location of the tumor, or if the tumor is compressing a nerve, you might have pain anywhere along the path of that nerve.
Other symptoms include:
Symptoms tend to get worse over time as the tumor grows or begins pressing on nerves or other structures. Both benign and malignant tumors can cause these symptoms.
Spine tumor treatment begins with a thorough evaluation of your spine, including diagnostic imaging to examine the structure of the spine and the tumor itself.
Based on the findings, Dr. Chang designs a treatment plan to remove all or part of the tumor while still protecting your spine and the nerves it contains.
Most spine tumors require surgery to either eliminate the entire tumor or to reduce the size of the tumor so it doesn’t press on nerves or alter the shape of your spine. Before surgery, Dr. Chang takes a small sample of tumor tissue in a procedure called a biopsy to determine if the tumor is benign or malignant.
The type of surgery and the techniques Dr. Chang uses will depend on where the tumor is located, its size, and other factors. After surgery, most patients undergo a course of radiation or chemotherapy.
Back pain and related symptoms are never normal, and of course, spine tumors are just one possible cause. If you have pain that won’t go away or is getting worse over time, your first step is an evaluation so you get the right treatment.
To learn more about spine tumor diagnosis and treatment, call or request an appointment online today to schedule a visit with Dr. Chang.