Spinal Tumors

A spinal tumor is an abnormal growth that develops within the spinal canal or the bones of the spine (vertebrae). A spinal tumor may be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

An estimated 10,000 people in the U.S. develop spinal tumors each year. While they can occur at any age, spinal tumors are most common in young and middle-aged adults.

There are various types of spinal tumors, classified by the types of cells found within the tumor:

Intramedullary spinal tumors occur within the spinal cord. They include:

  • Astrocytomas
  • Ependymomas
  • Hemangioblastomas

Intradural extramedullary spinal tumors are found within the covering of the spinal cord (dura) but outside the spinal cord itself. They include:

  • Meningiomas
  • Neurofibromas
  • Schwannomas

Extradural spinal tumors usually involve the cartilage and vertebrae. They can be benign or malignant.

Benign extradural tumors include:

  • Osteoblastomas
  • Enchondromas
  • Aneurysmal bone cysts
  • Giant cell tumors
  • Hangiomas
  • Eosinophilic granulomas

Malignant extradural tumors include:

Spinal tumors can be either primary (they begin in the spine) or metastatic (they spread from another part of the body to the spine). About 90% of cancerous tumors of the spine are metastatic tumors that originate in another part of the body. The most common types of cancers that spread to the spine are:

  • Lung
  • Breast
  • Prostate
  • Kidney
  • Thyroid
  • Lymphoma (a tumor of the blood system)

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

Spinal tumors can be life-threatening and cause permanent disability. Also, they can be dangerous even if they aren’t malignant. That’s because they can press against the spine as they grow, leading to pain, neurological (nerve) problems and even paralysis.

This is why it’s important to see a spinal tumor specialist for an accurate, timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment tailored to your unique situation.

Why Choose Cooper to Diagnose and Treat Spinal Tumors

Cooper University Health Care offers South Jersey’s most comprehensive program for diagnosing and treating benign and malignant spinal tumors. You can count on us for:

  • Unparalleled clinical expertise: Cooper’s partnership with the renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center means you have convenient access to some of the nation’s most respected spinal cancer experts, right here, close to home
  • A multidisciplinary team approach: Your spinal tumor treatment team may include neurosurgeons, orthopaedic oncologists, radiation oncologists, neuro-oncologists and more—bringing together exceptional skill to provide you with the highest level of personalized care
  • Today’s most advanced treatments: Our highly skilled physicians and surgeons can offer you the latest technology and techniques for treating spinal tumors, including minimally invasive surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, and targeted therapies
  • Access to clinical trials: We are continuously investigating newer, safer and more effective surgical and medical approaches for treating spinal tumors, and numerous clinical trials of innovative treatments are available

Causes and Risk Factors for Spinal Tumors

Doctors and scientists don’t yet know what causes most spinal tumors. What is known:

  • Sometimes, spinal tumors run in families and are associated with other types of hereditary (inherited) tumors, including neurofibromatosis 1 and 2, and Von Hippel-Lindau disease
  • A weakened immune system is associated with a spinal and brain tumors called primary CNS lymphomas

Symptoms of Spinal Tumors

Pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots cause spinal tumor symptoms, which can vary from person to person—as can the type and location of the tumor. Common symptoms may include:

  • Back and/or neck pain that gets worse over time, isn’t related to activity and gets worse when you lie down
  • Arm and/or leg pain
  • Muscle weakness or numbness in the arms or legs that gets worse over time
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of feeling in certain areas of the body
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Spinal deformities
  • Pain or difficulty standing
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Paralysis

Preventing Spinal Tumors

Unfortunately, there currently are no known lifestyle-related or environmental causes of primary spinal cord tumors, so at this time there is no proven way to protect against most of these tumors.

However, some forms of cancer that spread to the spinal cord can be prevented or cured before they can spread to the spine. That’s why it’s important to undergo appropriate screening for early detection of such cancers as lung and breast.

Contact Us

To learn more about the services available for treating spinal tumors at Cooper or to request an appointment, please call 800.8.COOPER (800.826.6737).

Refer a Patient

If you are a doctor who wants to refer a patient to Cooper for spinal tumor care, please call 800.826.6737.