A spinal tumor is a growth of cells (mass) in or around the spinal cord.
Tumor - spinal cord
Any type of tumor may occur in the spine, including primary and secondary tumors.
Primary tumors: most of these tumors are benign and slow growing.
Secondary tumors or metastasis: these tumors are cancer cells coming from other areas of the body.
The cause of primary spinal tumors is unknown. Some primary spinal tumors occur with certain inherited gene mutations.
Spinal tumors can be located:
As it grows, the tumor can affect the:
The tumor may press on the spinal cord or nerve roots, causing damage. With time, the damage may become permanent.
The symptoms depend on the location, type of tumor, and your general health. Secondary tumors that have spread to the spine from another site (metastatic tumors) often progress quickly. Primary tumors often progress slowly over weeks to years.
Symptoms may include:
The goal of treatment is to reduce or prevent nerve damage caused by pressure on (compression of) the spinal cord and ensure that you can walk.
Treatment should be given quickly. The more quickly symptoms develop, the sooner treatment is needed to prevent permanent injury. Any new or unexplained back pain in a patient with cancer should be thoroughly investigated.
The outcome varies depending on the tumor. Early diagnosis and treatment usually leads to a better outcome.
Nerve damage often continues, even after surgery. Although some amount of permanent disability is likely, early treatment may delay major disability and death.
Contact your provider if you have a history of cancer and develop severe back pain that is sudden or gets worse.
Go to the emergency room or call 911 or the local emergency number if you develop new symptoms, or your symptoms get worse during the treatment of a spinal tumor.
Published Date: August 15, 2022
Published By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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