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Spinal cord tumors can cause a wide range of symptoms, including pain, aches and neurological issues like muscle weakness or loss of sensation. All of these symptoms can make it difficult to maintain an active, comfortable lifestyle.

If your doctor has told you that your symptoms are due to a spinal cord tumor, then it’s a good idea to begin planning your next move. Fortunately, there are many ways to inform yourself about your road ahead, and there are many steps you can take to facilitate smooth and efficient treatment.

What You Should Know Right After Hearing Your Diagnosis

Receiving a spinal cord tumor diagnosis can be frightening, but there are two important things about the condition that can help ease your concerns.

First, most spinal cord tumors are not cancer. Spinal cord tumors are usually benign, meaning they will not spread to other parts of the body. Many of these tumors don’t require surgery, particularly if they are small, slow-growing and don’t cause many symptoms.

Second, if you need surgery for your spinal cord tumor, the operations tend to be routine and low-risk. Spinal cord tumor surgeries can last several hours, but their effect on the body is not that significant. This means that by adhering to your surgeon’s post-operative recommendations, you can set yourself up for a relatively comfortable recovery.

With this in mind, the first step is to gather information about your condition and discuss it with your doctor. The spinal cord is a complicated part of the body, but by doing research and asking questions of your doctor, you can gain a clear understanding of your condition and approach your treatment with confidence.

Treatment Options

There are many ways to treat a spinal cord tumor but they depend on the details of your case. Broadly speaking, treatments are divided into two categories: surgical and non-surgical. The first decision you and your doctor will make about your treatment is whether surgery is necessary, and this decision is based on several factors related to the tumor.

To better understand your spinal cord tumor, your doctor will perform a physical examination along with an imaging scan, such as an MRI. With an MRI, your doctor can see the tumor’s size, shape and location, all of which help determine whether surgery is necessary.

Non-Surgical Treatment

If your tumor is small and is neither growing nor causing any symptoms, your doctor may determine that surgery isn’t the best course of action. Still it’s important to regularly monitor your spinal cord tumor. This means that you will undergo periodic examinations and imaging tests to ensure that your symptoms aren’t worsening and that the tumor isn’t growing. Radiation is an option that is usually left for inoperable tumors.


If, on the other hand, your tumor is large, fast-growing and/or symptomatic, surgery is likely the best choice. The goal during spinal cord tumor surgery is to remove as much of the tumor as is safely possible. Usually this means removing the entire tumor. Certain tumors, however, cannot be safely disconnected or disentangled from the spinal cord or important nerves in your back without injuring them. In these cases, the goal of surgery is not be too aggressive and risk serious nerve damage. Instead an attempt should be made to remove as much tumor as possible, leaving part of the tumor to monitor with imaging or to treat with radiation.

How to Decide Which Option Is Best

The decision between surgical and non-surgical treatment is one that you and your doctor should make after careful consideration of all the factors related to your condition. The details of the tumor itself are crucial, like its size, location, symptoms and rate of growth, but also relevant is your overall health. Spinal tumor surgery is not an especially strenuous operation, but some patients, whether due to their age or another preexisting condition, are not good candidates for surgery. Nonetheless, surgical removal, when possible, is almost always the best choice for spinal cord tumors.

The best way to decide which treatment option is best for your spinal cord tumor is to discuss your condition with your doctor.

Final Thoughts

Spinal cord tumors can often sound worse than they really are. They are usually not cancerous, and surgery (for those who choose it) is a routine and effective treatment option. By doing research and discussing your condition with a qualified spine expert, you can determine which course of action is best for you. You can use this article to form questions for your next consultation.

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