Each year approximately 10,000 individuals develop a cancerous spinal tumor that either starts in the spine or is the result of cancer spreading from another site. There’s encouraging news about spinal tumors, however: They’re relatively rare compared to other forms of cancer. For example, this year, about 287,850 women are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 268,490 men are expected to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
There are many types of spinal tumors, and they’re often benign (noncancerous) and treated successfully.
As a highly skilled spinal surgeon, Dr. Benjamin Cohen provides expert treatment to patients with spinal tumors and many other spinal conditions. He and our team offer the most advanced treatments with a caring, patient-centered approach. Here, he explains the various types of spinal tumors.
Multiple types of spinal tumors
The three main classifications of primary spinal tumors (those that start in the spine) are:
- Vertebral column tumors emerge in your discs or vertebral bones
- Intradural-extramedullary tumors grow in your spinal canal under membranes that envelop the spinal cord, but outside the nerves
- Intramedullary tumors grow inside your spinal cord
Secondary spinal tumors are those caused by another type of cancer in a different part of the body and spread to the spine.
Symptoms associated with spinal tumors include back pain that may worsen at night, muscle weakness in your arms or legs, and reduced sensitivity to heat, cold, and pain. Pay attention to the origin of your back pain; it’s more likely to be tumor-related if you haven’t had an injury lately or don’t have osteoarthritis.
You can also experience a loss of feeling in your chest, arms, or legs. More severe symptoms include loss of bladder or bowel function, challenges with walking, and even paralysis.
Since back pain is a sign of many conditions, seek treatment if you experience any of these symptoms, so Dr. Cohen can make an accurate diagnosis and create a treatment plan.
Benign versus cancerous tumors and treatment
Although cancerous tumors are more serious than benign tumors, both require treatment. Even benign tumors can grow and cause pain by compressing your spinal nerves, but you won’t need cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy.
Spinal tumors must be surgically removed. If the tumor is malignant, and Dr. Cohen can’t remove all of it due to its size or location, you’ll need chemotherapy or radiation treatment. This can occur either before or after surgery, depending on your situation.
The challenge with spinal tumor surgery and the reason you need a surgeon with the highest skill level, like Dr. Cohen, is that he must protect your nerves from damage along with removing as much of your tumor as possible.
Dr. Cohen might also recommend spinal decompression after surgery to alleviate pressure from your nerve roots.
He may also suggest spinal fusion, which stabilizes your spine by fusing two or more adjoining vertebrae. This stops any movement between your vertebrae, strengthening your spine and ridding you of related pain. The operation helps maintain your nerve function and involves a bone graft and metal screws and rods to facilitate the fusion.
With each procedure, Dr. Cohen always opts for minimally invasive surgery when possible. This technique is less traumatic than traditional open surgery and only requires a few small incisions rather than a single long one. Dr. Cohen performs the surgery with small tools inserted through a flexible tube fitted with a small camera. This allows Dr. Cohen to see the treatment area and work more precisely. Minimally invasive surgery is associated with faster healing and less pain, bleeding, and scarring.
Call our office at 516-246-5008 to schedule an appointment if you’re experiencing spinal tumor symptoms or have been diagnosed, or reach out to us through our website. We offer both telemedicine and in-office appointments for your convenience.