Spinal Tumors: Treatments

Part 4 of 4

Peer Reviewed

Treatments for Spinal Tumors
Depending on the type of tumor, where it’s located, and the patient’s medical condition, treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or surgical removal of the tumor. However, surgical removal is not always possible if the tumor is located in an area of the spine that is difficult to reach.
Chemotherapy treatmentIf diagnosed early, patients with spinal tumors have a better chance of a full recovery. Sometimes, embolization is necessary as in the cases of aneurismal bone cysts, kidney cancer and multiple myeloma. This is a procedure that limits blood flow to the tumor. Other times, a combination of treatments is used to ensure that cancer does not spread to other areas of the body.

Pain often can be controlled with analgesics and swelling can be treated with steroids. In some patients, bracing is necessary to increase spinal stability and reduce pain. If the tumor is cancerous, many patients also use a variety of complementary or alternative approaches including:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Art therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Massage therapy
  • Meditation
  • Music therapy
  • Prayer, spiritual practices
  • T’ai chi
  • Yoga

Keep in mind, there is no evidence to show that any of these therapies improve the prognosis or change survival rates.

Whether benign or malignant, a spinal tumor is a very serious medical condition. However, if diagnosed early, patients with spinal tumors have a better chance of a full recovery. Patients who are experiencing any of the symptoms listed in this article should seek medical help right away.

Commentary by Stephen E. Heim, MD

This well-written article brings out several points worthy of further emphasis. Firstly, the "non-mechanical" nature of malignancies of the spine is an important concept. This means that the pain experienced by the patient is not significantly improved by restful positions (such as decumbency) and may often awaken the patient from sleep.

Mechanical pain sources are most often significantly improved by some "restful" position and significantly worsened by activity. Furthermore, in the event of a malignant spinal tumor the primary considerations are those of the aggressiveness of the tumor itself (and by correlation, any particular sensitivities of the tumor cell to treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormonal therapy); the degree to which the mechanical integrity of the bony spinal column has been compromised; and the degree of neurological compromise. With these primary factors in mind the surgical team, in conjunction with the medical team will also consider the overall medical status of the patient in order to come to a treatment plan optimized for that individual patient.

Updated on: 09/11/18
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What is a spinal tumor? Am I at risk?
Stephen E. Heim, MD
Co-Medical Director
Neuro-Spine Center
Central DuPage Hospital
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