What are cervical spine tumors? | Dr. Andrew Cash, MD Las Vegas, Nevada

By Brooke Strickland and Andrew Cash, MD

 Spinal tumors can generally be divided into those that have initially developed in the spinal bone itself or those that have started in the spinal canal and involve the cord and nerves of the spine.   Spinal tumors can be either metastatic or benign, and can have a lot of symptoms that will trigger your doctor to investigate if what you’re feeling is related to tumor growth. 

The most common symptom of cervical tumors is neck pain that begins gradually and then gets stronger as time progresses.  Many times, shoulder, arm, or leg pain can happen as the tumor extends its reach along the bone or the spinal column.  As it becomes more prominent, the patient will likely feel numbness or tingling or weakness in the legs or arms.  In serious cases, bowel and bladder function can be affected and mobility can be challenged. 

What is the difference between bone tumors and tumors in the spinal canal?

Primary spinal tumors are rare and are often benign.  Unfortunately, malignant tumors of the spine are far more common, grow rapidly, and can appear in several parts of the spine.  Tumors that start within the spinal canal are also somewhat rare.  The most common types of spinal cord tumors are usually benign yet they are difficult to remove due to the proximity they are located within the spinal canal.  However, tumors that arise around the spinal canal but not the cord itself are more common and are many times benign and more easily removed.

If your doctor suspects you have a tumor of this nature, he/she will ask you a series of detailed questions and a thorough exam to determine where the tumor may be located. The exam will include testing arm and leg strength, reflexes, sensations, and range of motion, to name a few.  To confirm, there will be significant tests to determine if this is what you have and the best method of treatment.   These diagnostic tests might include an X-ray, CT scan, or an MRI.  Once it has been confirmed that there is indeed a tumor, treatment options will be discussed.  Some tumors can be treated without surgery and can include radiation, stereotactic radiosurgery, and chemotherapy.   If surgery is required, many times radiation will be used in combination with it, either to make the tumor smaller before surgery, or to treat the remaining tumor after surgery.  Most often, chemotherapy will only be used if the tumor is cancerous and spreading is a possibility. 

Having a cervical tumor, or any tumor for that matter, can be scary.  If you’ve been diagnosed with a cervical tumor, you’ve probably felt as if there were so many questions and concerns that you had. The unknowns are often a great source of worry for a patient facing this diagnosis.  Consulting with your doctor, asking as many questions as you can, and deciding on treatment options that you’re comfortable with are all keys to taking the fear out of your diagnosis. 

Contact Dr. Cash at Desert Institute of Spine Care for an appointment at: www.disclv.com.

You can also view Dr. Cash's Verified Reviews® at www.medrounds.org/Dr_Andrew_Cash or his personal page at www.andrew-cash-md.com.