Spinal Tumors

Spinal Tumors

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WashU Neurosurgery’s spine surgeons have specialized training to care for all spinal tumors; especially those involving the bones of the spine, the nerve roots, the lining of the spinal cord, or the spinal cord itself.  Surgical techniques developed at Washington University are on the leading edge of treatments offered to patients across the nation.

The WashU Neurosurgery spine team delivers advanced care to patients at Siteman Cancer Center, ranked among the top cancer facilities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.


  • Breast, lung and prostate cancer are the most frequently encountered metastatic tumors of the spine.
  • Spinal tumors also arise from the bone and associated tissues; they include atypical hemangiomas, sarcomas and chordomas.
  • The spinal cord and associated tissues of the central nervous system are another source of tumors in this region.
  • Benign tumors such as schwannomas/neurofibromas (nerve sheath tumors) and hemangioblastomas can be found in conjunction with inherited disorders such as neurofibromatosis and Von Hippel-Lindau disease. 
  • Meningiomas are tumors that emerge from the coverings of the brain and spinal cord. Lastly, tumors may develop from within the spinal cord itself and include tumors such as ependymomas and gliomas.

Spinal tumor treatment

Each tumor affecting the spine and spinal cord is unique in its behavior and requires personalized treatment.

When you are diagnosed with a spine tumor, it is extremely important to determine the origin of the tumor. They can be generally categorized as primary or metastatic spine tumors. 

Primary spine tumors originate from tissues within the spinal elements and metastatic spine tumors originate from elsewhere in the body and ultimately extend to the spine.  Examples of primary tumors include chordoma and sarcoma. Common metastatic spine tumors include metastatic breast, prostate, and lung cancer. 

This is a critical distinction as primary spine tumors like chordoma can be surgically cured with en-bloc surgical resections. In contrast, surgical treatment in the setting metastatic spine disease is aimed towards decompression of the spinal elements, stabilization of the spine, and providing a safe margin for radiation. 

With the Washington University Department of Neurosurgery Spine Tumor Center, patients have access to a multidisciplinary team of experts uniquely trained to manage these challenging tumors.  

Importantly, all patients referred to our Neurosurgery Department for spine tumor treatment benefit from our multidisciplinary Spine Tumor Board. Our team of experts discusses each individual patient and customizes treatment recommendations for each patient’s specific condition. The Spine Tumor Board brings together a team of experts: medical and radiation oncologists, radiologists, interventional radiologists, and orthopedic and neurological surgeons, to provide the best treatment for each individual.