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Spinal Tumor Specialists in New York City

Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian at the Weill Cornell Medicine Center for Comprehensive Spine Care

Spinal tumors are atypical growths inside the spinal column that usually cause pain and other symptoms. Spine tumors can be identified in several different ways, and there is a wide range of descriptions that identify them.

doctor consulting with patient

Primary vs. Metastatic Tumors

One way to describe a spine tumor is by whether it is primary or metastatic:

  • primary tumor is one that originated in the spine or spinal column.
  • metastatic tumor is one that grows as an extension of another cancer (such as breast, liver, colon, or kidney). More than 40 percent of patients who have cancer will experience the spread of their cancer to their spine in their lifetime.
doctor showing patient an x-ray of the spine

Benign vs. Malignant

Another way to describe a tumor is by whether it is benign vs. malignant:

  • benign spinal tumor usually has clear borders and edges and does not penetrate the surrounding healthy tissue. A benign tumor isn’t cancerous, but it may need to be removed if it’s causing additional symptoms or placing too much pressure on the spine. Benign spine tumors include meningiomas, schwannomas, osteoid osteomas, and osteoblastomas.
  • malignant tumor is a cancerous growth that spreads and affects other tissue. Malignant spine tumors include chondrosarcomas, Ewing sarcomas, and osteosarcomas.

Categorizing Spinal Tumors

Spinal tumors can also be categorized by their location within the spine:

  • Intramedullary: Tumors that grow in the spinal cord itself, or in the nerves coming out of the spinal cord, usually in the upper spine or neck. Intramedullary tumors are frequently benign but can be harder to remove due to their location.
  • Intradural-extramedullary: Tumors that occur outside the spinal cord but within its protective covering. These tumors are frequently benign, but they can also be hard to remove surgically and may grow back after treatment.
  • Extradural: The most common type of spinal tumors, forming outside the spinal cord in the bones and cartilage of the vertebrae. Some extradural tumors develop from the vertebrae themselves (primary), but extradural tumors are more frequently metastatic tumors that spread from other cancers.

New York Spinal Tumor Treatments

The treatment and patient outcomes for a spine tumor vary based on whether it is primary or metastatic, benign or malignant, and other health factors, such as comorbidities. Treatment can include:

Spinal Tumor Surgery

Spinal tumor surgery for patients who may benefit from tumor removal; whether surgery is appropriate is very case-specific; your spinal tumor specialist will discuss whether surgery is appropriate for you; read more about spinal tumor surgery here.


Medications, which may include pain medications and/or hormonal treatments for metastases that are sensitive to hormones, such as breast or prostate cancer.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy to shrink tumors and alleviate pain associated with metastatic spine tumors; shrinking tumor cells can reduce pain by relieving pressure on nerve roots and/or the spinal cord; there are several methods of radiation delivery, which your spinal tumor specialist will discuss with you in detail.


Chemotherapy, which may help shrink and/or destroy tumor cells and provide pain relief.

Getting Treatment

Treatment may include a combination of some or all of these, depending on the unique circumstances surrounding each tumor.

Pain management and preserving neurologic capacity are key components of comprehensive spine cancer treatment. Our spinal tumor specialists in New York City provide multiple treatment options, from surgery to improve spinal deformities or nerve compression, to interventional bone injections to help strengthen the spine.

The renowned spinal tumor specialists at the Center for Comprehensive Spine Care provide patients with the widest range of expert options available, along with access to clinical trials and cutting-edge research. Please contact us for more information, or call 888-922-2257 to schedule an appointment.

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