Depending on the location and type of spinal tumor, various signs and symptoms can develop, especially as a tumor grows and affects your spinal cord or on the nerve roots, blood vessels or bones of your spine. Spinal tumor symptoms may include:

  • Back pain, often radiating to other parts of your body
  • Loss of sensation or muscle weakness, especially in your arms or legs
  • Difficulty walking, sometimes leading to 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 your body, depending on which nerves are compressed

Back pain is a common symptom of both noncancerous and cancerous spinal tumors. Pain may also spread beyond your back to your hips, legs, feet or arms and may become more severe over time in spite of treatment.

Spinal tumors progress at different rates. In general, cancerous spinal tumors grow more quickly, whereas noncancerous spinal tumors tend to develop very slowly.

When to see a doctor

There are many causes of back pain, and most back pain isn't caused by a spinal tumor. But because early diagnosis and treatment are important for spinal tumors, see your doctor about your back pain if:

  • It's persistent and progressive
  • It's not activity related
  • It gets worse at night
  • You have a history of cancer and develop new back pain

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience:

  • Progressive muscle weakness or numbness in your legs
  • Changes in bowel or bladder function
Oct. 21, 2011