Spinal Tumor is an abnormal mass of tissue within or surrounding the spinal cord and spinal column. These cells grow and multiply uncontrollably, seemingly unchecked by the mechanisms that control normal cells. Spinal tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Primary tumors originate in the spine or spinal cord, and metastatic or secondary tumors result from cancer spreading from another site to the spine. Spinal tumors may be referred to by the area of the spine in which they occur. These basic areas are cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacrum. Additionally, they also are classified by their location in the spine — anterior (front) and posterior (back). Clinically, they are divided into three major groups according to location: intradural-extramedullary, intramedullary and extradural.
Nonsurgical treatment options include observation, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Tumors that are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic and do not appear to be changing or progressing may be observed and monitored with regular MRIs. Some tumors respond well to chemotherapy and others to radiation therapy. However, there are specific types of metastatic tumors that are inherently radiation resistant (i.e. gastrointestinal tract and kidney), and in those cases, surgery may be the only viable treatment option.
Indications for surgery vary depending on the type of tumor.
- Primary spinal tumors may be removed through a resection for a possible cure. See laminectomy.
- metastatic tumors, treatment is primarily palliative, with the goal of restoring or preserving neurological function, stabilizing the spine and alleviating pain. Generally, surgery is only considered as an option for patients with metastases when they are expected to live 12 weeks or longer, and the tumor is resistant to radiation or chemotherapy.
- Indications for surgery include intractable pain, spinal-cord compression and the need for stabilization of impending pathological fractures