What is Hemangioblastoma?
A hemangioblastoma is a benign vascular tumor located along the spine. Although these tumors are benign, they can cause significant neurological problems, depending on their location. Hemangioblastomas are rare, accounting for only three percent of all spinal tumors. Most occur as a single tumor, but some patients develop hemangioblastomas as part of a genetic cancer syndrome called von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease. These patients develop multiple tumors within the brain and spinal cord over the course of a lifetime.
At UPMC, we treat hemangioblastomas with surgery to remove the tumor (resection) or stereotactic radiosurgery, which uses highly focused radiation beams to target and destroy tumors in a single session. Radiosurgery is noninvasive, but may take from six months to a year to destroy a hemangioblastoma. If a tumor is large and causing significant neurological symptoms, surgical resection is usually preferred.