A Patients' Guide to Spinal Tumors

Nonsurgical treatment of spinal tumors

Not all spinal tumors—benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancerous) require spine surgery. Your doctor may recommend a combination of therapies, some of which may be administered at different times. The best treatment may involve a thoughtful balance between complete elimination of the tumor to reducing its size.
Medical Colleagues examining a patient X-rayYour doctor not only considers the characteristics of the tumor type (eg, slow versus fast growing), but also views your age, current health and quality of life. Be assured, your doctor and his medical team will help you understand each treatment recommendation, including potential benefits and risks so you can make an informed decision.

Observe and Monitor
Sometimes a spinal tumor is discovered incidental to the diagnosis of a different disorder. Perhaps the spinal tumor is benign, not causing symptoms, or slow growing. In some cases, the risks associated with radiation treatment, chemotherapy, or surgery is riskier for the patient to undergo than keeping a watchful eye on the tumor.

Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy directs high-powered x-rays at a spinal tumor to kill cancer cells. Actually, the DNA of the cancer cells is destroyed, which may help shrink a tumor, reduce pain and other symptoms, slow spread, or growth of cancer. Sometimes radiation therapy is administered before surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to prevent cancer from recurring.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)
SRS is not surgery, but rather a computerized and more exacting method to deliver high-dose radiation therapy. High-powered x-rays beams are focused at angles on the spinal tumor—treating a smaller area than standard radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy has not proven to be beneficial in the treatment of most spinal tumors. However, in some cases, it is recommended and may be combined with radiation therapy.

Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can be administered orally (by mouth) or injection. These drugs may be used during treatment for short time periods to reduce swelling following radiation therapy or surgery.

Other medications and treatment include those to manage pain (eg, drugs, nerve blocks) and tumor-related symptoms or side effects (eg, nausea). A pain management specialist may be included among the patient's treatment team.


Updated on: 04/08/19
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Surgical treatment of spinal tumors
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Surgical treatment of spinal tumors

The benefits, risks and complications, as well as projected outcome (prognosis) are weighed as part of the decision process shared by you and your doctor.
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