Department of  Neurosurgery
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Spinal Tumors

Spinal Cord Tumors
Spinal Tumors

Washington University spinal neurosurgeons specialize in the treatment of entire spectrum of spinal disorders, extending from the skull to the sacrum. From the rare to the commonplace, our fellowship-trained and board-certified surgeons are uniquely qualified to treat spinal diseases. Among the most complex diseases we treat are tumors of the spine and spinal cord.

Our neurosurgeons have unique and specialized training to care for all spinal tumors, whether they involve the bones of the spine, the nerve roots, the lining of the spinal cord, or the spinal cord itself. 

We use a multidisciplinary approach combining the expertise of neurologists, pathologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists, pain specialists and surgeons to develop treatments tailored specifically to each patient. Washington University neurosurgeons within our Spine Division are an integral part of the Neuro-Oncology initiative at Siteman Cancer Center, providing our patients access to a world-class cancer institute. 

As educators and scientists, our physicians are actively engaged in clinical and basic science research designed to improve the quality and safety of the care we deliver to our patients. Techniques developed at Washington University are on the leading edge of treatments offered to patients across the nation.

Conditions & Treatments

Metastatic disease (cancer spread) is the most common cause of tumors involving the spine, with breast, lung and prostate cancer being the most frequently encountered metastatic tumors of the spine. Spinal tumors may also arise from the bone and associated tissues and 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 arise from the coverings of the brain and spinal cord. Lastly, tumors may arise from within the spinal cord itself and include more aggressive tumors such as ependymomas and gliomas.

Each tumor that affects the spine and spinal cord is unique in its behavior and, as such, requires unique treatment. For some tumors, surgical excision is the dominant treatment. In others, surgery only plays a limited role. 

Our patients benefit from access not only to the expertise of our spinal surgeons, but also to all Washington University cancer specialists. In some cases, we can provide very specialized treatments over short visits, while our patients receive their long-term care locally. One such treatment is called spinal stereotactic radio surgery. 

Spine Tumor Board

All patients referred to our Division for treatment of spine tumors benefit from our multidisciplinary Spine Tumor Board (which has twice-monthly meetings). The Tumor Board brings together medical/radiation oncologists, radiologists, interventional radiologists, orthopaedic and neurological surgeons to discuss cases referred to our institution and to establish optimal treatment plans.