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Spinal Tumours

The treatment for spinal tumours is a combined decision between the GP, Oncologist and the patient. Each person will have a treatment plan customized specifically to their needs as different types of tumours involve differing methods of therapy. The four main types of therapy used are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and the use of steroids. There are complementary therapies that exist, but they are not proven within the field of conventional medicine.

Surgical Treatment of Tumours

Surgery is generally carried out on benign tumours and can usually be removed entirely as they do not tend to invade on the spinal canal. Occasional malignancies can be treated this way too, such as a chordoma, but these can frequently grow inside the spinal cord so total removal can often prove to be too difficult and carry too many risks.

Tumours of the vertebrae are exceptionally complex to remove as they differ greatly in size, position, strength of the spinal column, both pre and post operatively, they can also be present in more than one area. The use of implants is being researched, so the future may be more promising when it comes to the surgical elimination of bony spinal tumours.

This form of treatment is used for malignancies and occasionally after having surgery, as a way of helping to remove any existing cells or tumours. It works by revealing the area to high levels of X-ray that damages or destroys the cells. It can cure or setback the disease by shrinking the tumour. It can help ease neurological symptoms which are caused by the tumour by relieving the pressure on the nerves of the spinal cord.

Radiotherapy may cause burning and irritation to the skin that covers the treated area which in turn could briefly worsen the tumour symptoms.

The radiotherapist and the oncologist decide the dose together as well as the length of time and how many sessions are required by each individual.


Chemotherapy works by exposing the person to powerful chemical drugs that are given by the intra-venous route (through a drip) or tablet form. It is frequently the course of treatment used in the presence of secondary tumours and usually requires a course of treatment over a certain time, again set by the oncologist.

Chemotherapy works by trying to stop the malignant cells from reproducing; in due course the cells will die. The effects of chemotherapy include hair loss/thinning, fatigue and nausea, problems with fertility and tenderness in the mouth. The majority of side-effects will settle once treatment has been completed.
Everyone has a different prognosis. Spinal canal and spinal cord tumours can take an extremely long period to shrink or heal.


The use of steroids is generally given alongside the other previously mentioned treatments. There are hormonal drugs that are produced naturally in the human body and are given as a supplement. They are given either by tablet form or by injection. They help treat the symptoms of the tumour by decreasing the swelling that surrounds the tumour.

Spinal tumours can be treated using any one of these methods, usually with a mixture. These treatments do not cure the condition for everyone, but may help improve the symptoms of the tumour.

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