Cervical Tumors

Spinal tumors can be either primary (originating in the spine itself) or secondary (metastases of cancer that originate elsewhere in the body).


Pain that continues to get worse despite treatment and that may be associated with other symptoms such as fatigue or weight loss. Neck pain; pain that extends toward the shoulder, between the shoulder blades, and even pain in the back of the head. There may also be radicular symptoms with pain, numbness, or weakness extending into the arms or legs. Loss of coordination and bowel or bladder incontinence may occur.

About this Condition

Spine tumors can be either primary (originating in the spine itself) or secondary (metastases of cancer that originate elsewhere in the body).

Doctors use the term "benign" to indicate that a particular tumor is unlikely to spread to other parts of the body. Benign tumors can still be a significant problem however, depending upon their location, size, adjacent structures, blood supply and other factors. Fortunately, most benign tumors can be treated successfully.

Doctors use the term "malignant" to indicate that a particular tumor or a cancer often spreads to other parts of the body, and can be difficult to cure or treat. This is very different from "benign" cancers, which are much less likely to spread, and are easier to treat and control.

Intramedullary Tumors

Grow from inside the spinal cord or inside the individual nerves; examples:

  • Astrocytoma
  • Ependymoma
  • Hemangioblastoma


Intradural Extramedullary Tumors

Grow within the spinal canal but outside of the spinal cord and nerves; examples:

  • Meningioma
  • Schwannoma


Epidural Tumors

Grow in the bones (vertebrae) of the spinal column or between the bones and dural layer surrounding the spinal cord and nerves.

This content is for your general education only. See your doctor for a professional diagnosis and to discuss an appropriate treatment plan.

Conservative Treatments


Tumor Biopsy

A tumor biopsy is the best way to determine if a spinal tumor is cancerous or not. A small piece of tissue is removed from the tumor, either through a needle or with surgery. This tissue is then viewed under a microscope to see if cancerous cells are present.

Tumor Resection

A primary spinal tumor means it comes from cells within or near the spine. It can involve the spinal cord, nerve roots, and/or the vertebrae (bones of the spine) and pelvis. Benign or malignant spinal tumors may require surgical intervention before or after non-operative treatments. The primary goals in surgery is to reduce pain caused by the spinal tumor, restore or preserve neurologic function, and provide spinal stability. The spinal tumor can be approached surgically from the front (anterior) or from the back (posterior) of the body. In general, benign tumors do not invade other tissues. Malignant tumors may invade other tissues and organs in the body. Although primary spinal tumors often contain a number of abnormal genes, their cause, in most cases, remains unknown.

Surgery may be the only treatment for a primary spinal tumor that is non-cancerous. As much of the tumor is removed as possible without causing neurological problems. A decompression refers to removing bone around the spinal cord or spinal nerves in order to take pressure off these structures.

After surgery, activity such as sitting and walking will be allowed as well as activities that do not require stretching of the spine or straining. Lifting is limited during the initial recovery period. You may be required to use a brace or corset after surgery to help with stability. Radiation for malignant tumors is often used following surgery to kill remaining tumor cells. It usually begins one to two weeks following surgery. Radiation lasts only 15-20 minutes per day for two to six weeks.

You can expect recovery and improvement in symptoms between a few days and several months following surgery. You may need pain management during your recovery, or possibly on a more long-term basis. Physical and occupational therapy may be beneficial to help restore any lost strength, coordination, or other skills. Your surgeon will likely suggest periodic follow-up appointments. New lab tests and imaging studies may be required. Sometimes the tumor will grow back and need to be removed again.

Please keep in mind that all treatments and outcomes are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary. Complications, such as infection, blood loss, and bowel or bladder problems are some of the potential adverse risks of surgery. Please consult your physician for a complete list of indications, warnings, precautions, adverse events, clinical results and other important medical information.