Spinal tumors can be treated in a variety of ways, and treatment will depend on several factors, including the type, location and size of the tumor as well as the patient's age and general health. Spinal tumors can be malignant or benign, and may appear as a "primary" tumor site, or as the result of a metastatic cancer, such as cancer of the breast, lung or liver. If the cancer spreads from a primary site, doctors refer to those tumors as “mets” or metastases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO 2010), 60% to 84% of cancers spread to the skeletal system, most often the spine.
In some areas of the body, noncancerous tumors aren't particularly worrisome. However, a spinal tumor can cause instability and collapse of the spine, or may directly impinge on nerve, leading to pain, neurological problems and sometimes paralysis.
Surgery on spinal tumors may be used to:
- Relieve compression on the spinal cord
- In some cases, remove the tumor completely.
- Following surgery to ablate any remaining cancer cells
- As a primary method to treat the tumor