A spinal tumor is an abnormal growth that occurs within or surrounding the spinal cord and/or spinal column. Tumors that start in the spine are called primary spinal tumors. Tumors that spread to the spine from another place are called secondary (metastatic) spinal tumors. Spinal tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Spinal tumors are rare compared to central nervous system (CNS) tumors that arise in the brain. Spinal tumors account for approximately 15% of all CNS tumors. About 10,000 people a year in the US develop spinal tumors.
There are three main types of spinal tumors:
Intramedullary – occur within the spinal cord
Intradural extramedullary – occur within the spinal cord covering (dura) but outside the spinal cord
Extradural – vertebral column tumors that usually involve cartilage and bone
Spinal tumors are often treated using one or more of the following therapies: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and proton therapy. Research and clinical trials are critical to gain a better understanding of these tumors and how to best treat them.