When You Could Have A Spinal Tumor and Why It’s So Hard To Diagnose

spine surgery

Spinal tumours are very rare. While making a diagnosis, the doctor has to rule out a lot of possibilities and the diagnosis can take up to weeks.

What Causes a Spinal Tumor to Form?

In most of the cases, it remains idiopathic. The doctors are not able to make a certain reason behind the growth. Anyone during their life can develop a spinal tumor, but the chances are usually not very high. The most accepted reason or causative factor behind a patient getting a spinal tumor is the history of some other tumor in the body. For patients who are undergoing cancer treatment or are already in remission, there is a maximum number of chances of developing a spinal cord tumor. To begin with, people having a history of cancer are the first candidates to be screened for spinal tumors.

Nervous system tumor affects around 359,000 people in the US, but only 10% to 15% of these cases involve spinal cord tumors. The spinal tumors are masses that are found in the vertebrae, spinal cord, spinal nerve roots, or dura matter. For comparison, the number of cases diagnosed each year for spinal cord tumors is very less when compared to breast tumors. But even if the number of cases are less, there are still around 10,000 new cases seen in the US every year, who have some degree of metastasic spinal cord tumor.

Read More – Common Chiropractic Adjustment Techniques

Spinal Tumor Symptoms –

Depending on the tumor’s size and location, there can be a number of symptoms –

  • Abnormal gait
  • Loss of sense of position in space
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Tingling
  • Difficulty balancing in the dark
  • Mid-back pain
  • Pain at night
  • Loss of bowel or bladder function
  • Paralysis
  • Scoliosis

Most of these symptoms can also be related to a lot more diseases, hence the doctors need to understand the relation between the signs. A pattern is seen in the pain and other symptoms. This could be that they are recurrent, persistent and worsen over time.


The cost of spine surgery in India will depend on the diagnosis made and the treatment plan thus incorporated. The spinal tumors are overlooked because they’re uncommon and the symptoms are very similar to those of more common conditions. For these reasons, it’s the doctors do a number of physical tests and go through the entire medical history to understand the condition of the patient. If the doctor suspects a spinal tumor, the following tests can be done:

  • Spinal Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses a powerful magnetic field to produce accurate images of the spine, the cord and the nerves. MRIs are usually preferred to diagnose tumors of the spinal cord. A contrast agent helps highlight certain tissues and structures. This contrast may be injected into a vein in your hand or forearm. Common shortcomings of MRI are there. Some people may feel claustrophobic or the loud thumping noise can cause discomfort. Earplugs are usually given to help with the noise. In certain cases, the patient might also be anesthetized to undergo the scan.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) uses a narrow beam of radiation that produces detailed images of your spine. It can be at times combined with an injected contrast dye to see the abnormal changes in the spinal canal more easily.
  • Biopsy is the only way to determine the exact type of spinal tumor. The piece of tissue is taken from the cord and is studied under a microscope.


The goal of spinal tumor treatment is to remove the tumor completely, but this varies from case to case depending on the extensiveness of the spread of the tumor. Doctors also take into account the patient’s age and overall health. If the tumor is metastatic, the treatment plan is decided upon with this factor in mind.

Treatment Options for Most Spinal Tumors include:

  • Monitoring – Some spinal tumors can be discovered by chances before they have ever caused any symptoms. If the tumor is small and isn’t growing or pressuring the surrounding tissues, they are monitored closely. During an observation, the doctors will do periodic CT or MRI scans to monitor the tumor.
  • Surgery – This is the treatment of choice for tumors that can be eliminated with an acceptable risk of nerve damage to the spinal cord. Newer techniques are allowing the neurosurgeons to reach tumors that were once physically inaccessible. High powered lasers and scopes are used to reach the proper vertebraes for the surgery.  When the tumor can’t be removed completely, the surgery may be followed by radiation therapy or chemotherapy or both.

Making a Difficult Diagnosis

More than often, a patient visits their hospital due to back pain or other early looking symptoms. After evaluations and diagnostic tests, most physicians advise the monitoring phase. The patient is encouraged that their symptoms would improve over time. NSAIDs are usually prescribed. If the symptoms don’t go away, then an MRI or a diagnostic test is done. This makes the process lengthy and thereby making the diagnosis difficult.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here