Spinal Cancer Patient leaning on brick wall

Spinal cancer

The information on this page was reviewed and approved by
Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on September 1, 2021.

Spinal cancer is a complex disease.
Get personalized care.

The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system, extending as a column of nerve tissue that runs from the base of the brain down the back. It carries important messages from the brain to the rest of the body. Spinal cancer forms when abnormal cells grow out of control in the spinal cord or the bones, tissues, fluid or nerves that comprise it, forming a tumor. A relatively rare disease, malignant tumors of the brain or spinal cord affect about 24,000 Americans each year. Symptoms include pain, muscle weakness, difficulty walking and paralysis.

Diagnosing spinal cancer is a complex process that often involves an angiography, a nuclear medicine bone scan, lumbar puncture and/or other imaging tests. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), our spinal cancer experts have training and experience in diagnosing, staging and treating all stages of the disease. They work with a multidisciplinary team of doctors and clinicians, and with each patient, to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to the patient’s individual needs. That plan also includes supportive care therapies designed to help manage the side effects of cancer and its treatment, so you are better able to stay on your treatment plan without interruption and get back to your life.

What you should know after a spinal cancer diagnosis

Treatment options

close up of doctor faces while performing surgery

Treatments for spinal cancer vary widely, depending on factors such as the location and extent of the disease. Surgical options may include minimally invasive and more aggressive approaches. Surgery, interventional radiology and chemotherapy may be used to treat the disease or to relieve side effects. The most common treatments for spinal cancer are:

When the tumor is limited only to one portion of the spinal column, we may perform surgery to completely remove the cancer. For metastatic spinal tumors, we may perform the minimum surgery necessary to relieve symptoms.

Chemotherapy drugs may be administered orally in pill form, or injected into the vein. For some spinal tumors, drugs may be given directly into the cerebrospinal fluid.

Radiation therapy
Spinal cancer radiation therapy is commonly used following surgical resection of a tumor, to destroy microscopic tumor cells left behind.

Interventional radiology
Our interventional radiology team provides minimally invasive treatments, performs procedures to manage pain and complications, performs biopsies, and strives to alleviate a variety of symptoms that may occur during cancer treatment.

Targeted therapy
We will likely combine targeted therapy with other spinal cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy.

Learn more about treatments for spinal cancer

​Supportive care

Cancer treatments may cause a number of side effects that impact your quality of life and ability to perform everyday tasks normally. At CTCA®, we understand that supporting your strength, stamina and nutritional balance throughout treatment is important to your recovery. That’s why we offer a range of supportive care therapies designed to manage the side effects of spinal cancer and its treatment – conditions like pain, nausea and limited mobility. Supportive care therapies for spinal cancer patients may include:


​Oncology rehabilitation

​Oncology rehabilitation includes a wide range of therapies designed to help you build strength and endurance.


​Nutritional support

Every patient has the option of meeting with a registered dietitian.


​Pain management

Pain management is a branch of medicine focused on reducing pain and improving quality of life through an integrative approach to care.

Learn more
Stephen Hook

Stephen H.

Hodgkin Lymphoma

"There is so much more to the experience of CTCA than just the treatment. Some people have asked me why I travel for treatment, why I don’t just go somewhere local. Doesn’t it make life complicated? No, it doesn’t. CTCA takes the worry away. Scheduling, appointments, all of these details are taken care of. My response when people ask me about the inconvenience of traveling for treatment is that all I need to do is get there and get myself home. CTCA takes care of everything else."


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