Last Updated on Feb 14, 2019

What are Spinal Tumors?

Spinal tumors are growths or abnormal masses of different types of cells in the bones of the spine or the spinal cord. These cells grow and multiply uncontrollably. Primary spinal tumors originate in the spine or spinal cord whereas secondary metastatic spinal tumors result from cancer spreading from other parts of the body to the spine.

The spinal cord is an elongated cylindrical structure made up of nervous tissue and extends from the brain to the lumbar region of the vertebral column. The spinal cord is protected by three meninges (outer-dura mater, mid- arachnoid and inner-pia mater) within a bony spinal column made up of bones called vertebrae. The spinal cord connects the brain to the peripheral nervous system.

Spinal tumors can occur within the spinal cord (intramedullary), in the membranes covering the spinal cord (extramedullary/intradural) or between the membranes and bones of the spinal column (extradural).

Could Severe Back pain be a Symptom of Spinal Cancer?

Severe pain in the back especially in the middle or lower regions is one of the most common symptoms of spinal tumor. The pain is mostly near the spine or in the spine.

The pain is usually worse at night and may increase during physical activity. The pain is not related to any injury or mechanical causes.

Depending on the location of tumor, other signs and symptoms may develop due to spine compression, pressure on the blood vessels, spinal nerves, or bones of the spine.

However, back pain is more commonly caused by the wear and tear of joints, injury to muscles and ligaments, muscle spasm or a slipped disc. If the pain does not subside with medication or is spreading to other areas, a spinal tumor may have to be ruled out.

What are the Types of Spinal Tumors?

  • Intramedullary tumors: These tumors begin in the cells within the spinal cord. Neck and thoracic spine tumors are the most common. These include Gliomas, Astrocytomas or ependymomas.
  • Extramedullary tumors: These tumorsgrow outside the spinal cord. Extramedullary tumors can be intradural (within the spinal membranes) or extradural (within the bones and cartilage of the vertebrae).These include Meningiomas, Neurofibromas and Schwannomas.
  • Metastatic spinal tumors: These cancers spread to the spine from other areas such as the breast, prostate and lungs. Multiple myeloma, lymphoma, sarcoma are some examples of metastatic spinal tumors.


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