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Spinal tumors sometimes may be overlooked because they're not common and because their symptoms resemble those of more common conditions. For that reason, it's especially important that your doctor know your complete medical history and perform both general physical and neurological exams. If your doctor suspects a spinal tumor, one or more of the following tests can help confirm the diagnosis and pinpoint the tumor's location:
Spinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to produce images of your spine. MRI accurately shows the spinal cord and nerves and yields better pictures of bone tumors than computerized tomography (CT) scans do. A contrast agent that helps to highlight certain tissues and structures may be injected into a vein in your hand or forearm during the test.
Some people may feel claustrophobic inside the MRI scanner or find the loud thumping sound it makes disturbing. But you're usually given earplugs to help with the noise, and some scanners are equipped with televisions or headphones. If you're very anxious, ask your doctor about a mild sedative to help calm you.
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