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Spinal Tumors and Cancer Diagnosis

Diagnosing Spinal Tumors and Cancer at UPMC

Early diagnosis can be an important factor in the outcome of tumors in the spinal cord. At UPMC, our team of experts has access to the most advanced imaging and diagnostic testing technology to ensure patients receive an accurate diagnosis.

Spinal Tumor and Cancer Symptoms

Back pain, especially in the middle or lower back, is the most frequent symptom of spinal tumors or cancer. The pain tends to be progressive and may spread beyond the spine to the hips, legs, feet, or arms.

Other signs and symptoms of spinal cancer or tumors may include:

  • Loss of sensation or muscle weakness, especially in the legs
  • Difficulty walking, sometimes leading to falls
  • Decreased sensitivity to pain, heat, and cold
  • Loss of bowel or bladder function
  • Paralysis that may occur in varying degrees and in different parts of the body, depending on which nerves are compressed
  • Scoliosis or other spinal deformity

If patients experience one or more of these symptoms, UPMC imaging experts may use X-rays; CT, MRI, and PET scans; and myelograms, as a form of diagnosis to determine the presence and extent of the spinal tumor.​​


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Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

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