Spinal Tumors

When a tumor develops on your spinal column or spinal cord, it can cause debilitating pain that affects everyday movements. Sometimes, spinal tumors can even pose a threat to your long-term health. The experts at Allegheny Health Network’s (AHN) Spine Center, part of AHN Neuroscience Institute, can help.

Our board-certified spine specialists have decades of experience in diagnosing and treating rare spine tumors. We perform the most advanced minimally invasive spine surgeries and are skilled in groundbreaking robotic techniques. These tools help us reach our ultimate goal: providing you maximum results and symptom relief.

Spinal tumor symptoms

The most common symptom of a spinal tumor is back pain, especially pain that worsens in the evening or radiates to your hips or legs. Often, symptoms will depend on a tumor’s location, size, or other characteristics.

Other symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness in the arms or legs
  • Decreased bowel or bladder function
  • Reduced sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Problems walking, or repeated falls

Diagnosing spinal tumors

Our spine care experts diagnose and treat a wide range of benign (noncancerous) and malignant (cancerous) spinal cord tumors. Based on your symptoms, you may see a neurosurgeon as well as a neuro-oncologist (cancer specialist), who may collaborate to offer a precise diagnosis.

We treat:

  • Primary tumors, which are tumors that develop in the spinal cord or column
  • Metastatic tumors, which occur when cancer cells that start growing elsewhere in the body spread to the spine

After performing a thorough physical examination to evaluate your symptoms, your physician may recommend:

  • X-rays: An X-ray can highlight other causes of your pain, such as a fracture.
  • Computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: These advanced imaging technologies clearly show the spinal canal and surrounding structures and can confirm the presence of a spinal tumor. An imaging scan may also provide physicians with important details about a tumor’s size and location.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy definitively determines whether a spinal tumor is benign or malignant. During this procedure, a physician removes a small amount of tissue for further examination under a microscope. We may do a biopsy as part of surgery to remove the tumor. Or, we may perform it as a separate procedure if we determine the tumor cannot be surgically removed.

Get expert spinal tumor treatment at Allegheny Health Network

At AHN, our goal is to provide you significant relief in the least invasive way possible. After a thorough evaluation, we work together to develop a treatment plan that addresses your circumstances and needs. This collaborative approach provides you with a high level of personalized care.

Our care team considers many factors, including your age and the specifics of the tumor, when determining which treatments will benefit you. We may recommend more than one therapy, or treatments in a specific order, to increase their effectiveness.

Your treatment plan may include:

  • Radiation therapy: With advanced computer software and imaging technology, our radiation oncologists deliver high-dose radiation beams directly to a tumor, while protecting surrounding healthy tissue. We have the country’s largest – and western Pennsylvania’s only – radiation oncology network, accredited by top radiation oncology accrediting organizations.
  • Medical oncology: Chemotherapy uses medicines to kill cancerous tumors through an IV or port (a catheter that delivers medicine under the skin). We also offer a range of advanced therapies: Targeted therapy medications attack certain types of cancer cells, stopping the tumor’s growth. Immunotherapy uses the body’s natural defense system, the immune system, to destroy cancer cells.
  • Surgery: If we recommend surgery, you will benefit from our world-class expertise in groundbreaking techniques and advanced technologies. We use minimally invasive techniques such as OsteoCool™ as well as innovative robotics technology to perform safe, effective surgeries. Learn more about our minimally invasive approach to spine and back surgery.

Contact us

To schedule an appointment or learn more about AHN neuroscience services, call (412) 359-6200 in Pittsburgh or (814) 452-7575 in Erie.

If you're an existing patient, you can also call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 in Pittsburgh or request an appointment with AHN neuroscience services.