Spinal tumors are similar to any other type of tumor. Their cause is unknown but they can occur as a primary tumor or as a result of the spread of cancer from another area. Tumors are masses of damaged cells that have multiplied and grown out of control. They may destroy nearby healthy cells or cause them to malfunction. A tumor that forms in the area of the spinal cord can upset the connection between the brain and the nerves or inhibit the cord’s blood supply. Spinal column tumors can cause symptoms on one or both sides of the body at once.
Causes of Spinal Cord Tumors
Spinal tumors can cause back pain, loss of sensation, muscle weakness and spasms. Like other tumors, these must be treated quickly and effectively so they do not spread to other areas. The majority of spinal cord tumors grow below the neck. The symptoms usually take place in the same region of the body or below that of where the tumor has formed. Extradural tumors are found between the inner portion of the spinal canal and the dura mater. Tumors within the dura may be found outside or inside the spinal cord.
The most common tumors that develop within the spinal cord are astrocytomas or ependymomas. Some tumors, such as schwannomas, neurofibromas, or meningiomas, may develop in the tissue around the spinal cord and nerves. The majority of these tumors are benign but because they often compress the nerves and cause pain, they usually need to be removed surgically.
Complete tumor resection is usually most effective in treating spinal tumors. Many spinal tumors are easy to remove because they do not form on the actual spinal cord. Others may be harder to remove because they cannot be distinguished from normal spinal tissue. Successful resection can relieve pain and significantly benefit the patient.