A spinal tumor is a malignant or benign growth that develops in the vertebrae or within or near the spinal cord. Whether cancerous or not, a spinal tumor can threaten life and cause permanent disability.
Although some tumors travel to the spine from other areas, there is often no definitive reason why spinal tumors develop. Experts believe they may be caused by defective genes; however, it is not always clear if the genetic defects are inherited, occur spontaneously, or caused by environmental factors.
While the most common symptom of a spinal tumor is back pain, the most common diagnosis for back pain is not a spinal tumor. Tumor growth in the bone or instability from tumor destruction can cause pain. Nerve compression can also lead to pain, loss of sensation, muscle weakness, and sometimes paralysis.
Patients with long standing back pain need to understand that there are many causes. See your doctor if your back pain is persistent, not related to activity, is worse at night, or you have a history of cancer.
Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or other medications are all treatment options for a spinal tumor, depending on the tumor type and the specific clinical situation.