Spinal Tumors

Houston Methodist’s spinal tumor experts offer the most advanced treatment options and personalized, compassionate care. We are home to the top-rated spine program in Texas, with expertise in all types of spinal tumors. 

Houston Methodist’s world-class spine experts have access to the latest spinal tumor research, treatments and technology. Our team approach brings together specialists who collaborate to evaluate your tumor and design an individualized treatment plan to give you the best chance at recovery. 

Spinal tumors are benign or cancerous growths in the spinal canal or bones of the spine. Tumors may start in the spine or spread from cancers in other parts of the body. Spinal tumors can lead to neurological problems, paralysis, permanent disabilities and can be life-threatening. 

Diagnosing & Treating Spinal Tumors

How are spinal tumors diagnosed?

Diagnosis starts with a thorough conversation about your symptoms. Spinal tumor symptoms can include:


  • Back pain, especially in the lower or middle back
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs, arms or chest
  • Difficulty walking, frequent falls
  • Decreased sensitivity to pain, heat or cold
  • Loss of bowel or bladder function
  • Sudden paralysis, which may be caused by nerves that are compressed by the tumor


Your physical and neurological exam will include a complete medical history, along with specialized tests or imaging such as:  


  • Biopsy to determine the type of tumor
  • Blood work
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
  • X-ray, CT scan or MRI


These tests and exams will help us determine what type of spinal tumor you might have. Primary spinal tumors start in the spine or spinal cord. Most spinal tumors are secondary, which means they spread (metastasize) to the spine from cancer in another part of the body, such as the lung, breast, kidney, prostate or colon. Different types of spinal tumors include: 


  • Extradural tumors occur outside the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord. These are the most common types of spinal tumor.
  • Intradural-extramedullary tumors are within the spinal canal but outside the cord. These tumors are usually benign and slow growing, such as meningiomas, neurofibromas and schwannomas. 
  • Intramedullary tumors start within the nerves of the spinal cord or spinal column. These include osteosarcomas, chordomas and giant-cell sarcomas.


Primary spinal tumors are rare, and their cause often is unclear. Some can be attributed to exposure to cancer-causing agents, and some evidence suggests that genetics may increase the risk of developing spinal tumors. 

What treatments are available?

Choosing Houston Methodist for your spine tumor care means you have access to the latest treatment options, including advanced technology backed by research. Not all tumors require surgery or aggressive treatment, though all must be monitored. Our experts can diagnose any type of spinal tumor and personalize a treatment plan for you. 

Treatment for cancerous spinal tumors may include: 



We understand that deciding on spinal tumor treatment is a big decision. Our doctors take the time to discuss all your options, listen to your concerns and answer your questions. Our goal is to give you the best chance at recovery. 

I need advanced care or a second opinion.

We understand the fear and worry that comes with the diagnosis of a spine tumor. Whether you are looking for a diagnosis or a second opinion, we are here to help. Houston Methodist’s compassionate team of spine tumor specialists will diagnose your condition and design a personalized treatment plan that works for you and your family.  

Find a Spine Specialist