San Francisco Spine Surgeons

Does a Spinal Tumor Mean I have Cancer?

Spinal Tumor San Francisco Bay Area, CASpinal tumors can be frightening for the very fact that they are tumors. Tumor is a word that we associate with cancer. When discussing a growth in the spine, we must consider both the potential for cancerous cell development and neurological disturbance related to the very presence of the tumor itself. Not all spinal tumors are malignant. Here, we discuss the different types of tumors and symptoms that should be assessed by a medical doctor.

Symptoms that may indicate a spinal tumor include:

  • Pain and associated neurological symptoms. For example, chronic low back pain and subsequent bladder or bowel problems.
  • Spinal pain that is more noticeable upon waking.
  • Tenderness or pain in a localized area of the spine.
  • Rest does not improve symptoms.
  • Accompanying symptoms such as fever, nausea, and vomiting, or unexplained weight loss.

Back pain that persists for more than a few weeks is reason enough to visit your doctor. When symptomology follows the aforementioned pattern, prompt medical evaluation is valuable to optimal treatment outcome.

Spinal Tumors Explained

Some spinal tumors are cancerous. They may be primary or secondary.

  • A primary spinal tumor develops directly within the spinal column, originating in either the disc or the bone. This type of tumor is relatively uncommon and, if it does occur, tends to be slow-growing.
  • A secondary spinal tumor is referred to as a metastatic tumor. This is a growth that has spread from another part of the body. For example, a metastatic spinal tumor in a woman may have spread from cancer in the breast. This is a type of spinal tumor that is likely to coincide with constitutional symptoms such as loss of appetite.

Non-cancerous spinal tumors may develop in one of two areas of the spine. These types of growths present concern related to removal.

  • Intramedullary tumors originate in the spinal cord. This type of growth may also grow inside of individual nerves. In most cases, intramedullary tumors are diagnosed in the cervical spine (neck), where surgery is a fragile process.
  • Extramedullary spinal tumors occur outside of the spinal cord but within the spinal canal. These growths are also intradural, which means they reside beneath the membrane covering the spinal cord. Intradural-extramedullary tumors usually grow slowly, sometimes taking years to manifest regarding physical symptoms.

Spinal tumor surgeries are performed at St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco, where expert oncologists and the experienced spinal surgeons from our practice collaborate to achieve optimal patient outcomes.

Learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of spinal tumors at (415) 750-5570.

Posted in: Spinal Tumors

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