Understandably, a spinal tumor sounds alarming. But many spinal tumors are benign (noncancerous). They don’t require treatment unless they’re causing pain, numbness or other symptoms. If an abnormal growth is cancerous, specialists in the Sutter Health network provide expert treatment to help prevent it from spreading and causing further complications.
Your doctor will use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools to determine a tumor’s status before charting an appropriate treatment course. Evaluation options include:
- Diagnostic imaging, including CT, MRI and X-Ray
- Electromyography (EMG) and Nerve Conduction Studies
- Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
Next, an interdisciplinary group of cancer experts, spine surgeons and other specialists collaborate to decide on the best approach. Even a benign tumor may affect your nerve roots, spinal cord or spinal structure, so doctors will evaluate what the tumor is doing and what possible risks it may pose in the future. If your team decides that no treatment is needed, you’ll still receive regular examinations to monitor and ensure that the tumor stays harmless.
When a spinal tumor needs treatment, doctors can provide a broad range of surgical procedures, including minimally invasive techniques performed through small incisions. You and your doctor may also discuss stereotactic radiosurgery, a noninvasive, painless and effective technology that delivers precise radiation beams to hard-to-reach tumors. Additional potential treatments include laminectomy (typically performed on bone but also on tumors) or resection (removal) to free a tumor from surrounding normal structures.
With any kind of spinal tumor surgery, expect to spend at least a day in the hospital. You’ll also benefit from physical therapy and rehabilitation to regain full function for everyday activities.