Spine tumors are abnormal growths of tissue found in and around the spine. Tumors in the spine may be primary (begin in the spine) or secondary (metastatic – i.e., move to the spine from other locations). The most common cancers that move to the spine are breast, lung, renal and prostate. Most often cancer that moves to the spine is not fatal. However, it can cause pain and compress nerves. Nerves that are compressed can cause weakness or paralysis of your arms or legs. Treatment of your spine tumor is focused on maintaining your quality of life.
The majority of spine tumors are located in the center of the back, but they also occur in the lower back or the neck region. The location of the tumor determines the symptoms you will experience.
Some patients have no symptoms, but the most common symptom of a spine tumor is pain. Patients may experience persistent back or neck pain. Other complaints may include numbness, tingling or weakness in the arms or legs, problems walking and maintaining balance, or problems with bowel and bladder function.
Several methods are used to diagnose spine tumors:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the spine is the most common test. It will show the soft tissues and nerves of the spinal column.
- X-rays will show vertebral fractures, common when the tumor invades the spinal bones.
- CT scans show the bones more clearly and can help to determine the extent of the bony disease.
- Other tests may include CT scans of the chest, abdomen and pelvis or a PET scan to determine where else the cancer may be.
What to ExpectTreatment Team