Spinal Cancer FAQs

Expert Radiation Therapy Center in Orange County, CA

At Orange County CyberKnife, we’re proud to provide world-class radiation therapy and cancer treatment to patients with virtually any cancerous condition. Our state-of-the-art cancer center features some of the most advanced cancer-fighting technology in the world, and we’re proud to have some of the brightest minds in the field on our cancer treatment team. We treat all forms of spinal cancer at our center, and we’ve compiled a list of commonly-asked questions to help you understand more about the condition and its treatment.

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While most spinal tumors are benign, it’s still important to seek treatment as quickly as possible from a qualified expert. At OC CyberKnife, we’re proud to provide world-class cancer care to patients all over the Orange County area. Call us today at 714.962.7100 or reach out to us at our contact page to schedule your treatment consultation. We look forward to helping you beat cancer and reclaim the healthy, normal lifestyle you deserve.

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Thankfully, most spinal cord tumors are noncancerous and slow-growing. After getting a diagnosis, you should make a consultation appointment at OC CyberKnife or another cancer care center to get a treatment recommendation. Even if you’ve already been given a recommendation, OC CyberKnife is happy to provide a second opinion.

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Surgery is usually the preferred method for treating spinal tumors. Surgery may be combined with radiation therapy or chemotherapy, and if the tumor is inoperable or presents other problems, radiation therapy may be used alone.

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Thankfully, spinal tumors are usually slow-growing and benign. This means immediate treatment isn’t as necessary as it is with more aggressive cancers. That said, tumors are always easier to treat early on, so you should seek a recommendation on treatment as soon as possible.

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Any operation that affects an important part of the nervous system like the spinal cord comes with risk, but when you get treatment from a specialized cancer center, those risks are minimized.

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Yes, in many ways tumors that form in the spinal cord and the brain are similar. They both start in the central nervous system and are liable to spread throughout the nerves, but it’s rare for either of these tumors to spread to other parts of the body.

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Radiation therapy normally plays a supporting role in treating spinal tumors, as surgery is the preferred treatment. That said, radiation can be combined with surgery or used as a standalone treatment in some cases.

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It all depends on the size and location of your tumor, but most patients experience little to no loss of functionality following surgery. Some patients do get worse, but any lost function usually returns over after the surgery.

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Generally, recurrence of spinal tumors is very low. Particularly for benign spinal tumors, recurrence is considered very rare.

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It depends on the type of tumor. Malignant tumors are more likely to spread, but they usually only do so within the central nervous system. Benign tumors are less prone to spreading, but it is still possible. The tumor may spread outside the nervous system, but this is rare.

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Spinal cancer is fairly uncommon, affecting about one out of a million people every year.

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Generally, surgery will prevent or ease pain. Some patients may develop numbness or tingling following a surgery, but this usually subsides over the months after surgery. This type of pain, which may also be a burning sensation, is most common in patients with ependymomas. Your doctor can prescribe you medication to help manage any pain you experience.

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Scientists aren’t sure of the exact causes of spinal tumors, but there is an association between spinal tumors and neurofibromatosis.

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You should seek treatment from a qualified, specialty cancer center, and you should speak to several different neurosurgeons before making a choice.

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Normally, no special preparation is required. Your doctor will talk to you about steps you can take before and after surgery.

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There are often options available for patients without insurance. Seek the aid of social workers in your area to learn more about your options.

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Generally, yes. If you get several letters from your primary physician and the specialist you want, most HMOs will let you go out of network to get treatment from an expert.

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You’ll need an MRI 3 months after surgery, 6 months after surgery, annually for several years, and biannually for a period after that. It all depends on the specifics of your case.

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Intramedullary tumors refer to those that arise directly from spinal cord tissue, while Extramedullary tumors arise from nerves or protective tissues outside the spinal cord.

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Cysts are relatively common and affect about 50-70% of all spinal tumor patients. The cyst will usually decompress after surgery and cause no further problems, but a small fraction of patients may experience issues from cyst reaccumulation.

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For most patients, the outlook is very good.

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In some patients it will, while in others it will not. It all depends on your specific case.

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The only way to tell with certainty is through a microscopic examination by a pathologist after removal of the tumor. Most spinal tumors are benign, but if a tumor is found to be cancerous, it will affect the treatment process after the surgery.

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Most spinal tumors are benign, so the only post-surgical treatment necessary for most patients is physical and occupational therapy. Most patients start these treatments while still in the hospital and continue them on either an inpatient or outpatient basis.

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Most patients are out of bed within 12 days of surgery and able to move with assistance 3 to 4 days after that.

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Generally, surgical removal of a spinal tumor won’t have an effect on respiration. The only exception is if the tumor is in the neck, in which case there’s a small chance of respiratory problems.

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Generally, no – even if you have part of a vertebra removed, you’ll be able to perform physical activity as normal.