Lumbar Tumors

Spinal tumors can be either primary (originating in the spinal structures) or secondary (metastases of cancer that originated 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. There may also be radicular symptoms with pain, numbness, or weakness extending into the legs. If severe, loss of coordination and bowel or bladder incontinence may occur.

About this Condition

Spinal tumors can be either primary (originating in the spinal structures) or secondary (metastases of cancer that originated elsewhere in the body).  Doctors use the term "benign" to indicate that a particular tumor is unlikely to spread to others 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 more difficult to cure or treat. This is very different from "benign" cancers, which are much less likely to spread, are easier to treat and control.

Intramedullary Tumors

Grow from inside the spinal cord; 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 between the bones (vertebrae) of the spinal column and the dural sac surrounding the spinal cord and nerve roots.


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.

METRx Tumor Removal

Both benign and malignant spinal tumors may require surgical intervention before or after treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation. As much of the tumor is removed as possible without causing neurological problems. A minimally invasive tumor removal may be done using the METRx system depending on the size and location of the spinal tumor. A partial or full laminectomy may need to be performed first to reach a tumor in the spinal column or to remove bone around the spinal cord or spinal nerves to relieve pressure from the growing tumor.  The primary goals in tumor resection surgery are to reduce pain caused by the spinal tumor, restore or preserve neurologic function and provide spinal stability.

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 is often used following surgery to kill remaining tumor cells. It usually begins one to two weeks following surgery. Radiation may be only 15-20 minutes per day for two to six weeks.
You can expect recovery and improvement in symptoms between 2 weeks 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 recommend periodic follow-up with imaging studies. 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.