Spinal Tumors

Spinal tumors are growths in or near your spinal cord or spinal bones (vertebrae). They can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). They can occur at any age but are most common in young and middle-age adults.

Benign tumors can exist for years or decades without causing problems. Some grow to press on spinal nerves, however, causing pain, nerve problems and sometimes paralysis.


Experts don’t know what causes most spinal tumors. They sometimes run in families and are associated with other types of inherited tumors, including neurofibromatosis 2 and Von Hippel-Lindau disease. A weakened immune system is associated with a tumor called spinal cord lymphoma.


  • Back pain, often spreading to other parts of your body and worse at night
  • Numbness or weakness, especially in your legs
  • Trouble walking
  • Falling
  • Feeling less sensitive to pain, heat and cold
  • Loss of control over bladder or bowels
  • Scoliosis
  • Paralysis in parts of your body 

Nonsurgical treatment

If your tumor is small, benign and not pressing on tissues, monitoring with X-rays or MRI scans may be the best option.

Surgical treatment

If your tumor is malignant, your spine doctor will work with doctors at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to develop the best treatment plan for you.

If you have a benign tumor that’s causing severe symptoms, you and your doctor may decide on surgery to remove it.

Spine tumor program

At OHSU, we know that each spine tumor is different, so we look at each case from multiple angles. We work together to treat the most challenging cases through our spine tumor program.

Our team of specialists meets monthly to examine cases together. These experts include neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons who specialize in spine surgery, radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists, and medical oncologists.

OHSU is the only hospital in Oregon where experts work together in this way. Our approach makes sure that you:

  • Receive the best possible treatment, tailored to your condition.
  • Benefit from the knowledge of many spine and cancer experts.
  • Have access to the latest treatments, including clinical trials.