Tumors in the Spine: Signs, Symptoms, and Types

Spinal tumors occur when there is an abnormal growth of cells in the spinal cord, bones that make up the spine, or surrounding tissues. These growths can be both benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) – both of which can become a major source of pain in the neck, back, and lower back as they compress the spinal cord, nerves, and blood vessels.

Signs and Symptoms of a Spinal Tumor

  • Neck, back, or lower back pain and/or paralysis
  • Numbness, coolness, or loss of feeling in the fingers, hands, legs, etc.
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty walking (frequent falls)
  • Loss of bowel functions
  • Spinal deformities (such as scoliosis)

 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact Colorado Spine & Scoliosis.

Types of Spinal Tumors

There are a variety of different spinal tumors that can occur, both benign and malignant. Malignant tumors can be both primary, which begins in the spine, or secondary tumors, which are metastatic and begin in another part of the body (such as breast, lung, kidney, etc.). All spinal tumors are classified with regard to their location in the spine, and each requires unique treatment.

Extradural Tumors

The most common type of spinal tumors are Extradural, or occurring outside the membrane of the brain and spinal cord (spinal dura). Although Extradural tumors can be primary, they are most often metastatic – tumors that are caused when cancers in other parts of the body (such as the breast, lung, or kidney) spread through to the bones and cartilage of the spine.

 

Common examples of Extradural tumors include chordoma, chondrosarcoma, osteosarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, and Giant cell tumors. Treatment often includes surgery with the goal of eliminating pressure on the spinal cord or roots and correcting any deformities. Because removing tumors in the bones of the spine surgically can be near impossible, radiation therapy is often used in conjunction to surgery.

Intradural-Extramedullary Tumors

Intradural-Extramedullary tumors are less common, occurring in only 15% of Central Nervous System (CNS) tumors[1] and occur in the spinal dura (outside of spinal cord). These types of tumors are often benign, yet can cause extreme pain and discomfort as they compress the spinal cord and nerves. Common Intradural-Extramedullary tumors include meningioma and nerve sheath tumors, which are often treated surgically.

Intramedullary Tumors

Intramedullary tumors refer to when there is a rapid growth of cells within the spinal cord itself. Intramedullary spinal tumors are extremely rare, accounting for only 2-4% of tumors in the CNS.[2] Examples of these types of tumors are astrocytomas (most often occurring in children) and ependymomas (most often occurring in adults). Surgical intervention is often recommended; it has seen more success with benign tumors than malignant.

Colorado Spine & Scoliosis

Being diagnosed with a spinal tumor can be stressful and overwhelming. Choosing a spine doctor is an important decision. Dr. Anant Kumar specializes in adult degenerative cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine surgery, pediatric spine surgery, scoliosis, and complex spinal deformity. Unlike any other orthopedic surgeon in the country, Dr. Kumar has had additional subspecialty training in Orthopedics through four fellowships, a grueling process requiring an additional five years of training.

Dr. Kumar has the ability to draw upon his extensive training and experience to find the most effective treatment for patients with a spinal tumor. If you are looking for a skillful and reliable spine doctor in Colorado, schedule an appointment at Colorado Spine & Scoliosis today.

[1] Arnautovic, K., & Arnautovic, A. (2009). EXTRAMEDULLARY INTRADURAL SPINAL TUMORS: A REVIEW OF MODERN DIAGNOSTIC AND TREATMENT OPTIONS AND A REPORT OF A SERIES. Bosnian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, 9(Suppl 1), S40–S45.

[2] Tobin, M. K.1,BS, Geraghty, J. R.1BS, Engelhard, H. H.1MD, PhD, Linninger, A. A.2PhD, & Mehta, A. I.1MD. (2015). Intramedullary spinal cord tumors: a review of current and future treatment strategies, Neurosurgical Focus FOC, 39(2), E14.