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The Center for Spinal Tumors

Center for Spinal TumorsThe Washington University Center for Spinal Tumors, led by Jacob Buchowski, MD, MS, Professor of Orthopaedic and Neurological Surgery, provides comprehensive, specialized care to patients with tumors of the spine.

Spinal tumors can be broadly classified into two categories: metastatic spinal tumors and primary spinal tumors.

Metastatic spinal tumors originate somewhere else in the body (for example, the breast, lung, prostate, or kidney) and spread to the spine where they can cause fractures and/or compression of the spinal cord or nerves. Despite advancements in cancer care, metastatic spinal tumors are very common: of the 1.2 million patients that are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. each year, between 10 and 30% will have symptomatic spread of cancer to the spine when they are diagnosed. The types of cancer that are most likely to result in spinal metastases include breast cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer, and thyroid cancer.

Unlike metastatic spinal tumors, primary spinal tumors originate within the spine. They are quite rare and account for only 0.04% of all tumors and 10% of all bone tumors. Primary spinal tumors can either be benign or malignant. Some of the benign primary spinal tumors include: osteoid osteoma, osteoblastoma, aneurysmal bone cyst, and giant cell tumor. Some of the malignant primary spinal tumors include: osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, chordoma, as well as multiple myeloma and lymphoma.

Although many metastatic spinal tumors can be treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy, some metastatic spinal tumors require surgical treatment. Surgery can range from a minimally invasive procedure such as cement augmentation to prevent or treat a fracture (i.e. vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty) to complex reconstruction depending on the severity of cancer involvement. As surgical techniques have improved over the years, surgery for metastatic spinal tumors has become more common. Unlike metastatic spinal tumors, many of which do not require surgery, the vast majority of malignant primary spinal tumors require surgical treatment. Benign primary spinal tumors also frequently require surgical intervention, although sometimes they can be treated nonoperatively.

For a consultation, please contact the Center for Spinal Tumors by calling (314) 747-4950 during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday)

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