The most common types of spine tumors are those that come from other parts of the body (breast, lung, kidney, prostate) and metastasize, or spread, to the spine. Tumors of the spinal cord or the covering (meninges) of the spinal cord can occur also, although these are much more rare.
Spine tumors may cause persistent and chronic back pain, numbness, burning and tingling sensations, bladder or bowel control problems, loss of sensation in the legs and arms, reduced sensitivity to heat, cold and pain, progressive muscle weakness, paralysis and difficulty balancing and walking.
Spine cancer can be diagnosed by reviewing your history and symptoms, and performing a thorough physical and neurological examination. Imaging tests such as biopsy (sample of the spinal tissue is removed for examination), myelogram (CT scan performed with a contrast dye), spine CT scan, spine MRI scan, and spine X-rays are usually ordered to confirm the presence of a spinal tumor.
Medications such as corticosteroids can be prescribed to reduce inflammation and swelling around the spinal cord. Sometimes metastatic spine tumors can be treated non-surgically with radiation therapy to the tumor in combination with systemic chemotherapy. Sometimes when there is progressive neurologic dysfunction, surgery is required to remove the tumor without affecting other important nerves. If the tumor has destroyed a significant amount of the bony spine anatomy, then a spinal fusion with instrumentation may be required as well to reconstruct the spine. Often times surgery is combined with radiation and chemotherapy to provide the best result.