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Spinal Tumors


x-ray of a patient with Spinal Tumors

A spinal tumor is a growth or mass that develops within your spinal canal or within the bones of your spine. Spinal tumors are rare and can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Because both malignant and benign tumors can compress the spinal cord and nerves that carry messages to and from the brain, they are a serious health risk and must be promptly diagnosed and treated.


Primary tumors are the ones that originate in the spine or spinal cord, and metastatic, or secondary, tumors result from cancer that has spread from another site to the spine.


The main types of spinal tumors are:

  • Intramedullary tumors begin in the cells within the spinal cord itself, most frequently grown in the cervical (neck) region. They are often benign, but very difficult to remove.
  • Extramedullary tumors grow in either the membrane surrounding the spinal cord or the nerve roots that reach out from the spinal cord and not within the spinal cord itself, but these tumors affect the spinal cord function by causing spinal cord compression and other problems related to it.
  • Metastatic tumors start elsewhere in the body and spread to the vertebrae- the supporting network around the spinal cord or the spinal cord itself.


The symptoms patients experience depend on the position of a tumor in the spinal cord and can include:

  • Back or neck pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Clumsiness
  • Difficulty walking


In addition, tumors located in the lower part of the spinal cord may cause loss of bladder and bowel control.


Treatment options may involve a combination of surgery to reduce the size of the lesion, combined with radiation and/or chemotherapy. 

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