Diagnosing Spine Tumors

An accurate and complete diagnosis is essential for effectively treating spine tumors. Because there is no routine spine cancer, the OSUCCC – James’ world-renowned cancer specialists and subspecialists use the most advanced diagnostic technology to analyze each patient’s biologically unique cancer and determine the most effective targeted treatment.

To ensure a proper diagnosis, OSUCCC – James specialists will examine you and ask about your medical history, including information about symptoms and risk factors you may have.

These experts may also conduct the following tests to detect and diagnose spine tumors:

Physical Exam

During a physical, an OSUCCC – James specialist examines your body carefully for signs of disease and asks you about your medical history, lifestyle and family medical history.

Neurological Exam

During a neurological exam, our experts use a series of specialized questions and tests to check your brain, spine, spinal cord and nerve function. An OSUCCC – James subspecialist will analyzes your mental status, capability, coordination, muscles and reflexes.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests produce pictures of the inside of the body to help our experts determine the extent, or grade, of the disease. Tests may include:

Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan)

This X-ray test produces detailed, cross-sectional images of your body. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography or computerized axial tomography. A head CT scan can show evidence of a spine tumor.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) with Gadolinium

MRI scans use radio waves and strong magnets instead of X-rays to help OSUCCC – James experts see inside the spinal cord. A substance called gadolinium, which is injected into a vein before the test, collects around areas with cancer cells, and a computer translates the radio waves into a detailed picture to help determine if a tumor is present. An MRI is the preferred test to detect spine tumors.

Single Photon Emission Tomography Scan (SPECT)

A SPECT scan produces a 3-D image with a special camera linked to a computer that rotates around the patient’s neck. The images highlight areas where a small amount of a previously injected radioactive substance collects.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

A PET scan uses a small amount of a radioactive agent mixed with glucose to identify cancer cells in the body. A special imaging camera displays images of these cells brighter than those of normal, healthy cells.


This X-ray procedure enables OSUCCC – James experts to evaluate a patient’s arteries and blood vessels. The patient is injected with a small amount of contrast, or dye, which highlights the blood.

(Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

If you’ve been diagnosed with a spine tumor, would like a second opinion or would like to speak with a spine cancer specialist, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

460 West 10th Avenue

Columbus, Ohio 43210

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