Tumors may affect the spinal cord and spine itself. The spinal cord is connecting the brain with the rest of the body is composed of neural tissue. The spine, on the other hand, consists of vertebral bones and joints. It supports the body and provides protection to the spinal cord.
Tumors affecting the spinal cord are usually benign and may originate from the spinal cord itself or its covers. For example, meningiomas are benign tumors originating from the spinal cord envelop. They are benign, slowly growing and compress the spinal cord from outside. Other tumor types like ependymomas and astrocytomas are also benign but originate from the spinal cord and therefore are more difficult to separate and remove.
Spine tumors usually arise from the vertebral bones. They may originate in the vertebral bone or metastasize there from other location. The majority of spine tumors are metastatic. Bone is the third most common metastasis site with spine metastasis contributing to nearly half of the cases. Breast, prostate, lung are among the most common types of cancer spreading to the spine.
The most common symptom of spine tumors is a pain. The pain is usually located at the involved site but may radiate to different parts of the body if nerves and spinal cord are involved. When spinal cord and nerves get compromised numbness and weakness develop.
Management for primary and metastatic tumors of the spine is different. Primary tumors are usually treated with surgery. In the case of complete tumor removal, there is no other treatment required. Management of metastatic tumors depends on the stage of the tumor. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery are usual options and the choice of the treatment depends on the type, stage of the tumor and patient condition. The goal of surgery is relieving the pressure from the spinal cord and nerves and providing stability to the spine is compromised.