3 Types of Spinal Tumors and How They’re Treated

3 Types of Spinal Tumors and How They’re Treated

Hearing the word “tumor” is scary, and questions flood your mind. How serious is it? Is it cancerous? Will it affect my mobility? Can it be removed, and if so, what does that look like? 

Benjamin R. Cohen, MD, specializes in spinal tumors and approaches your care with sensitivity and many years of experience. He analyzes your diagnosis thoughtfully and creates a personalized treatment plan using the most advanced and innovative methods.

What is a spinal tumor?

A spinal tumor develops when a mass of abnormal cells forms and grows in or around your spinal cord, which runs through your spinal column from your brain stem to your lower back. 

A primary spinal tumor originates in the spinal cord or column, while secondary tumors develop on the spine due to cancer spreading from another body part, such as the breast, lung, or prostate.

The three spinal tumors

There is a trio of primary spinal tumor types classified by where they start developing in the body:

1. Vertebral column tumors

These tumors develop on the discs or in the vertebral bones and are also known as extradural tumors since they’re not located in the spinal cord.

2. Intramedullary tumors

As their name implies, intramedullary tumors grow inside the spine and are fairly rare, accounting for just 4-10 percent of central nervous system tumors. 

3. Intradural-extramedullary tumors

This type of tumor originates in the spinal canal, specifically beneath membranes that envelop the spinal cord but not in the nerves.

One sign of a spinal tumor is back pain that you can’t trace to a recent injury or health condition, like spinal stenosis or arthritis, as well as limited mobility. 

However, some of the other symptoms that point to a spinal tumor’s growth may surprise you, including arm, chest, and leg numbness, a weakening of the muscles in your arms and legs, and alarmingly, problems with bladder or bowel function. Paralysis can even occur, and scoliosis may develop.

Are there effective treatments for spinal tumors? 

Surgery is the standard treatment for spinal tumors. Spinal tumor surgery is a highly sensitive procedure, so securing the expertise, talent, and commitment of a top-notch, board-certified surgeon like Dr. Cohen is vital. 

Multiple factors impact how Dr. Cohen deals with your tumor, including its size (the larger the tumor, the greater its chance of causing spinal nerve compression), rate of growth, and whether it is a primary or secondary tumor. 

The goal is to remove all of the tumor, but that’s not always possible. If we can’t remove the entire tumor, you may require chemotherapy, radiation, or both to shrink the tumor so it can become more manageable and easier to remove. This treatment can come either before or after the surgery, depending on your specific circumstances.

Whenever possible, Dr. Cohen performs minimally invasive surgery to minimize tissue damage and unpleasant post-surgical symptoms. This procedure requires only one or two small incisions. He inserts slim tubes through the incisions and uses slender instruments to perform the surgery. 

Minimally invasive procedures are associated with faster recovery and reduced pain, bleeding, scarring, and post-procedure infection risk as compared with traditional open surgery.

Contact our Garden City office at 516-246-5008 to consult with Dr. Cohen if you’ve been diagnosed with a spinal tumor or are experiencing worrisome symptoms. We offer both in-person and telemedicine appointments, and you can also reach out to us through our website.

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