Spinal Tumors

Spinal tumors are abnormal growths of new tissue called neoplasms. They are relatively rare in the spine. Neoplasms are generally classified as benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). While benign tumors may be destructive to normal bone tissue, they do not invade other tissues. However, malignant tumors have the potential to invade the structure of the spinal vertebrae and spread to other organs.


The symptoms caused by a spinal tumor depend on many factors, including its location, how quickly it grows, invasion into other spinal elements, spinal cord and nerve involvement, and its effect on spinal stability.

Spinal tumors may first manifest themselves with discomfort in the back or legs. Some spinal tumors may cause leg or arm weakness and numbness, sciatica, partial paralysis, clumsiness, spasticity, bowel or bladder problems, or spinal deformity. Symptoms may develop gradually or appear suddenly, usually worsening unless treated.

Non-Surgical Treatments

The type of non-surgical treatment determined to be appropriate depends on many factors, including the type of tumor (benign or malignant), its stage, treatment objective (e.g., pain reduction, cure), and patient’s life expectancy and overall health.

  • Bracing (Corset)
  • Chemotherapy
  • Pain Therapy
  • Radiation Therapy

Surgical Treatments

The goal of surgery, whether the spinal tumor is benign or malignant, is to reduce pain and restore or preserve neurological function and spinal stability. Some tumors also require non-surgical treatment, such as radiation or chemotherapy, even after surgical resection (partial removal) or excision (complete removal).

Surgery to treat a spinal tumor may be warranted when a specimen is needed (open biopsy). Surgery may also be warranted if the tumor causes spinal cord or nerve compression, progressive neurological deficit, pain that is unresponsive to non-surgical treatment, vertebral destruction, and spinal instability.

Spinal instrumentation and/or biologics may be used to achieve fusion in order to stabilize and reconstruct the spine. Instrumentation utilizes medical-grade hardware such as cages, rods, and screws to stabilize the spine during fusion. Bone grafts, bone cement, or BMPs, are used with instrumentation to facilitate fusion. Spinal fusion occurs as the graft material joins and develops around the instrumentation, producing a solid structure. Following surgery, the patient may be required to wear a specialized brace to further stabilize the spine while fusion occurs.