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A spinal tumor is an abnormal mass of tissue within or surrounding the spinal cord and spinal column. These cells grow and multiply uncontrollably.

Spinal tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Primary tumors originate in the spine or spinal cord, and metastatic or secondary tumors result from cancer spreading from another site to the spine. Common primary cancers that spread to the spine are lung, breast and prostate.

The spinal column is the most common site for metastasis of cancer to the bone. Lung cancer is the most common cancer to metastasize to the bone in men, and breast cancer is the most common in women.

Spinal tumors are categorized into three groups according to location:

  • Intradural extramedullary
  • Intramedullary
  • Extradural

Symptoms

  • Non-mechanical back pain, not specifically caused by injury. Pain can increase with activity
  • Loss of sensation or muscle weakness in the legs, arms or chest
  • Difficulty walking, which may cause falls
  • Decreased sensitivity to pain, heat and cold
  • Loss of bowel or bladder function
  • Paralysis that may occur in varying degrees and in different parts of the body, depending on which nerves are compressed
  • Scoliosis or other spinal deformity resulting from a large but benign tumor

Treatment

Nonsurgical treatment options include:

  • Observation
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Regular MRIs

Surgical treatment options are available depending on the type of tumor:

  • Posterior approach
  • Anterior approach
  • Stereotactic Spinal Radiosurgery