Radiation Therapy for Spinal Cord Tumor

Radiation plays an important role in treating cancers that originate in the spinal cord, as well as metastatic cancer that has spread to the spinal cord. Treatment with radiation is often given to relieve life-threatening compression on the spinal cord caused by malignant growths before the patient receives any other treatment because cord compression constitutes a medical emergency that can lead to paralysis or death.

Because of the critical importance of the spinal cord, radiosurgery with the robotic CyberKnife is often prescribed. UT Southwestern has one of the longest histories of CyberKnife use in the world, and physicians here are highly skilled at using this noninvasive treatment to deliver high doses of radiation to very precise locations on or near the spine.

Patients who undergo surgery for spinal tumors may also receive radiation intraoperatively – that is, in the operating room while they are asleep during their surgery. In this procedure, a radioactive applicator is temporarily placed directly onto the treatment area, and treatment is delivered in just a few minutes. This specialized technique, performed by only a few centers nationwide, allows for very precise dose delivery to the area at highest risk for cancer recurrence and reduces the need for any additional radiation therapy following surgery.