What are spinal tumors?

Luke Macyszyn, MD
Spinal tumors can originate from another part of the body (metastasis), may form from the lining of the spinal cord, and can originate in the spinal cord itself. Metastases are usually found in the bones of the spine, whereas the latter are in or around the spinal cord itself. Tumors that originate in the spinal cord are usually the most serious.
Spinal tumors are masses of cells that develop and grow on the vertebrae, nerves or other tissues in the spine. They can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Fewer than 10 percent of spinal tumors begin in the spine; these are called primary tumors. Most spinal tumors are growths of cancer that have spread (metastasized) to the spine from another location in the body; these are called secondary tumors. Symptoms may be slow to develop and include back pain, weakness, incontinence or erectile dysfunction.

To diagnose a spinal tumor and determine the type of tumor, a health care provider may take a thorough medical history, do a physical examination, order laboratory tests to examine cells and fluid around the spine and get imaging tests of the spinal area, including spine CT scans, spinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and x-rays of the spine.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.