Medical Treatment of Spinal Cord Tumor

Depending on the type of tumor, your age, and your overall health, treatment plans can vary, but our goal is to surgically eliminate the tumor as completely as possible without permanently damaging the spinal cord. Radiation and chemotherapy may be needed depending on the tumor diagnosis and the extent of the tumor’s removal during surgery.

When determining treatment for your spinal cord tumor, your team of specialists at UT Southwestern Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center will meet as a group in weekly Neuro-Oncology Tumor Board meetings and discuss the best treatment plan for you.

Once you’ve met with our spinal cord tumor team and received the treatment plan recommendations, you may wish to talk it over with loved ones. We also offer a full team of support care specialists, including cancer psychologists, who are available to assist you in a variety of ways.

Surgery

The most important thing to consider when contemplating spinal cord surgery is the experience of your neurosurgeon. Our spine neurosurgeons focus primarily on tumors and other conditions of the spinal cord. It’s been well-documented that the extent of tumor removal and health of the patient after spine surgery play a vital role in obtaining successful outcomes for spine tumor patients.

Experience with the latest techniques and instruments allow our spine neurosurgeons to remove tumors that were once considered inoperable.

The high-powered microscopes we use in microsurgery make it easier to distinguish tumors from healthy tissue. We also have special equipment to monitor the function of the spinal cord and spinal nerves during surgery to minimize injury.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells. It’s used to treat spinal tumors that have not been completely removed with surgery, depending on the tumor diagnosis, or if the tumor returns after initial treatment. Sometimes radiation is used as the main treatment when surgery isn’t possible. It can also be used to relieve symptoms, such as pain.

Our radiation oncologists specialize in administering radiation to the central nervous system, which includes the spine, and work carefully to minimize the risk of damage to normal spinal tissue.

Stereotactic radiosurgery, a technique that was pioneered at UT Southwestern, may be used to deliver radiation to treat spinal cord tumors. We offer the latest technologies, including Gamma Knife and CyberKnife, to deliver high doses of precisely targeted radiation to destroy tumors or lesions. Radiosurgery minimizes radiation exposure to healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Our neuro-oncologists may use chemotherapy as a treatment for certain types of spinal cord tumors, particularly spinal cord gliomas, but chemotherapy is not always a part of treatment for spinal cord tumors. When prescribed, these drugs are often given after surgery or concurrently with radiation therapy or even after radiation therapy. The chemotherapy agents used for spinal cord tumors are often well-tolerated by patients, with less-severe side effects compared to chemotherapy agents used for other cancer types.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a spinal cord specialist, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.