A spinal tumor is a growth that develops within your spinal canal or within the bones of your spine. It may be cancerous or noncancerous.

Tumors that affect the bones of the spine (vertebrae) are known as vertebral tumors.

Tumors that begin within the spinal cord itself are called spinal cord tumors. There are two main types of tumors that may affect the spinal cord:

  • Intramedullary tumors begin in the cells within the spinal cord itself, such as astrocytomas or ependymomas.
  • Extramedullary tumors develop within the supporting network of cells around the spinal cord. Although they don't begin within the spinal cord itself, these types of tumors may affect spinal cord function by causing spinal cord compression and other problems. Examples of extramedullary tumors that can affect the spinal cord include schwannomas, meningiomas and neurofibromas.

Tumors from other parts of the body can spread (metastasize) to the vertebrae, the supporting network around the spinal cord or, in rare cases, the spinal cord itself.

Spinal tumors or growths of any kind can lead to pain, neurological problems and sometimes paralysis. Whether cancerous or not, a spinal tumor can be life-threatening and cause permanent disability.

Treatment for a spinal tumor may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or other medications.

Oct. 24, 2014

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