Neoplasms, also known as spinal tumors, are abnormal growths of tissue found inside the spinal column. Primary tumors of the spine (those that begin at those sites) are relatively rare, and may be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). The cause of most primary tumors of the spine is unknown. In a small number of cases, they may be attributed to a specific genetic disease such as neurofibromatosis, or from exposure to radiation or cancer-causing chemicals.

When a tumor of the spine is from cancer that has spread from another part of the body, it is known as a secondary or metastatic tumor, so it is always malignant.

Symptoms of spinal cord tumors include pain, sensory changes and motor problems. The most common symptom of a spinal tumor is non-mechanical back pain, which means it is not due to muscle strains or disc injury. Mechanical back pain usually intensifies with activities or certain body positions— such as sitting, bending, and walking. It is often relieved somewhat with rest or lying down. In contrast, non-mechanical back pain is constant and is not improved by rest or lying down. Other symptoms may include: sciatica, numbness, partial paralysis, spinal deformity, difficulty with bladder control and fever. Symptoms of spinal tumors usually develop slowly and worsen over time unless they are treated.


Doctors may prescribe one or more of the following for the treatment of spinal tumors: surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy. Additionally, steroids may be used to reduce the swelling inside the central nervous system.


The predicted outcome will be influenced most significantly by whether the tumor is benign or malignant. If it is cancerous, doctors will give it a numbered score based on severity, which will then determine treatment options and prognosis.