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Spine Tumors, Primary

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Spine tumors are abnormal masses of tissue in or around the spine. The cause of most types of spinal tumors is uncertain.

What are primary spine tumors?

Tumors that originate in the spinal column (as opposed to tumors that start in another part of the body and spread to the spine) are called primary spine tumors. They can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Who develops primary spine tumors?

Primary spine tumors occur more commonly among adults. Though rare, they can also develop in children.

What are the symptoms of primary spine tumors?

Because primary spine tumors grow slowly over time, symptoms may not appear immediately. Symptoms vary based on the location and type of tumor and may include:

  • Back pain that worsens over time and doesn’t resolve with medication
  • Muscle weakness, muscle spasms or loss of muscle function
  • Abnormal sensations or loss of sensation in the extremities (legs, arms)
  • Loss of bladder or bowel function

How are primary spine tumors diagnosed?

After performing a thorough medical examination to evaluate the patient’s back pain or other symptoms, the healthcare provider may order imaging tests to confirm and pinpoint the location of the spinal tumor. Tests include X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT). A tissue sample taken from the tumor (during a procedure called a biopsy) will then be examined to determine whether the tumor is benign or malignant, as well as the tumor’s stage.

How are primary spine tumors treated?

Treatment for primary spine tumors depends largely on the type of tumor. Tumors that are slow-growing may be monitored, while chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may be appropriate for other spine tumors. Surgery may be considered if the tumor has not responded to chemotherapy or radiation. Your oncologist will discuss all viable treatment options with you.

Blumenthal Cancer Center offers comprehensive care for spinal cord tumors through its Neuro-Oncology Center. For more information or to make an appointment, please call 201-634-5585.

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