Surgery may be necessary to treat spinal tumors—and it is always a complex and delicate procedure. The goal is to remove as much of a tumor as possible without injuring the spinal cord and its nerves and nearby tissue.
The surgeons at Twin Cities Spine Center (TC Spine) provide both the exceptional skill and experience needed for delicate spine surgeries such as these. They're specialists who focus exclusively on the spine. This is a key reason why doctors throughout our region regularly refer their most complex cases to us.
Understanding Tumors of the Spine
The vast majority of spine tumors are what doctors call metastatic. That means they've spread from cancer in another part of the body, such as the lungs, breast, prostate or colon. However, some spine tumors begin in the spine itself. Doctors call these primary tumors.
Often, spine tumors grow in the small bones of the backbone—or vertebrae. Tumors can also grow in nerves and tissue. They can also develop in different regions: cervical (neck), thoracic (mid back) and lumbar (lower back).
Don't Ignore Spine Cancer Symptoms
A growing tumor can press on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves and cause neck or back pain. That pain often occurs at night or in the early morning and gets worse over time. Resting usually doesn't help.
Neck tumors can cause weakness or numbness in the arms and legs, while back tumors can cause the same symptoms in the chest or legs. Both can cause bowel and bladder incontinence and permanent disability, including paralysis.
Quickly diagnosing and aggressively treating spine tumors helps prevent—or minimize—nerve damage and major disability. It can also increase the odds of survival or extend life if the tumor is cancerous.
Be sure to seek medical attention for back or neck pain or other symptoms that might be triggered by a growth in your spine. This is especially important if you have a history of cancer and develop new back or neck pain.
Treatment for Spinal Tumors
If you've been diagnosed with a spinal tumor, your treatment may include:
- Spinal tumor surgery. This is often the preferred treatment for accessible spine tumors—those that can be removed with an acceptable risk of spinal cord or nerve injury. It may also be the only option if a tumor isn’t likely to respond to chemotherapy or radiation. You may also need spinal fusion surgery to stabilize your spine if a tumor is removed. This can be done at the same time it’s removed.
- Radiation therapy. When a tumor can’t be completely removed by surgery, doctors may destroy what’s left with radiation to ease pressure on the spinal cord. Radiation may also be necessary when surgery poses too many risks or when tumors have metastasized.
- Chemotherapy. This may be given alone or with other treatments to kill cancer cells.
Your Best Choice for Spine Cancer Treatment
If you turn to TC Spine for care, our spine surgeons will carefully review all your options and explain both the benefits and risks of spine surgery. They will work with other providers, including an oncologist, to help you settle on the best course of treatment—one that reflects your priorities.