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Spinals Tumors - How To Diagnose Them?

Written and reviewed by
DMRT, MBBS, MD - Radiation Oncology, DNBR
Oncologist, Kolkata  •  24 years experience
Spinals Tumors - How To Diagnose Them?

Spinal Tumors are an abnormal mass that grows in the spinal cord or around it. Since these tumors occur in the spinal region, whether spinal cord or column, they came to be known as Spinal tumors. The primary tumor originates in the spine, and secondary tumors may grow in the other areas. They can be benign or malignant. Oncologists classify the spinal tumors according to their location and nature of cancer. They can be cervical, thoracic, lumbar or sacrum.

Causes of Spinal Tumor

The causes of spinal tumors are unknown to this day. Generally, cell growth in the tumors are fast and uncontrollably. This makes it difficult for the removal of cancer completely. There can be some harmful components and agents that cause cancer.

Spinal cord cancer generally attacks and affect lymphocytes which are a type of immune cells. People with compromised or low immunity system are more prone to spinal cord lymphoma. There is also a genetic component that can be a probable cause of cancer in people. This genetic disorder creates benign tumors in the tissue layer of the spinal cord.

Symptoms of Spinal Tumor

The symptoms of early spinal tumors are rarely seen. However, with the growth of spinal tumor progresses, patients may feel different symptoms that may affect their blood vessels, bones, and nerves connected with the spinal cord. The symptoms related to spinal tumors include:

  • Back pain

  • Senselessness at back

  • Difficulty in walking

  • Pain at the site of the tumor

  • Loss of bowel

  • Loss of bladder function

  • Weak sensation in the muscles especially in arms and legs

  • Pain originating from the back and radiating to other parts as well

Since the grown of the tumor is unknown, the early symptoms only show back pain. Gradually this pain travels to lower back, hips, legs, and arms which worsen with time. Spinal tumors progress at a different rate.


Since the symptoms of spinal tumors are prevalent, it is generally overlooked by many doctors and patients. Hence, it is necessary that doctor examining you should be aware of your medical history. The diagnosis includes physical and neurological examinations. The following methods can determine spinal tumors:

  • MRI Scan: MRI is the most effective way to look into the body organs. It uses a compelling, magnetic field, and radio waves to get the images of the spinal cord without operating the patient. Dye is injected into the spinal cord, and the doctors the determine the tissue mass that is developing in the spine region with the accumulation of dye in the region. It is the most preferred method to detect a tumor in the spine.

  • CT Scan: CT scans are a cheaper option than MRI. It is generally used to scan spinal tumor when the patient is claustrophobic or cannot afford for MRI scan. Similar to the MRI scan, the dye is injected in the spinal region of the patient when performing a CT scan.

  • Biopsy: This method is used when doctors observe the development of a mass in the spinal cord of the patient. A small piece of the mass is retrieved and diagnosed under a microscope to understand the type and nature of the tissue mass developing in the spine of the patient.

Spinal tumors once detected requires thorough medical treatment and surgeries. Consult with the expert oncologist and get yourself checked. If avoided, it may lead to a severe threat to life.


In case you have a concern or query you can always consult a specialist & get answers to your questions!
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