3 Types of Spinal Tumors

3 Types of Spinal Tumors

About 35,000-54,000 Americans have diagnosed spinal tumors, benign or cancerous growths in or around the spinal cord or vertebrae. That makes these cancers relatively rare, and as a result, they can often be difficult to diagnose.

As a leading complex spine neurosurgeon, David Chang, MD-PhD, DABNS, uses state-of-the-art diagnostic techniques to identify spinal tumors, so our patients can begin an optimized treatment plan as soon as possible. 

Here’s what we’d like you to know about the three types of spinal tumors and how they affect your spine.

Three types of spinal tumors

Spinal tumors can start in the cells of your spine, or the cancer may begin elsewhere and spread (metastasize) to the spine. When a tumor starts growing in the spine, it’s called a primary spine tumor.

Spinal tumors can be classified into three groups or types based on where they form in relation to the spinal cord and the dura, the tough membrane that protects the spinal cord.

Intramedullary tumors

Intramedullary (sometimes called intradural) tumors are growths that form inside the dura. There are several types of intramedullary tumors, including:

Intradural-extramedullary tumors

These are tumors that form inside the dura but outside the spinal cord. The most common types of intradural-extramedullary tumors include:

Extramedullary tumors

Sometimes called epidural tumors or extradural tumors, extramedullary tumors form outside the dura. These tumors may also involve the vertebrae.

Many of these tumors grow in the epidural space, the area that surrounds the spinal cord membrane. When a tumor metastasizes to the spine from another part of the body, it’s more likely to form an extramedullary tumor.

Treating spinal tumors

Spinal tumors tend to grow slowly, and many of these tumors are benign (not cancer). Still, even benign tumors can press on nerves and cause painful symptoms in your back or radiating into your legs or arms. If treatment is delayed for a long period, you might wind up with permanent nerve damage.

Many malignant spinal tumors come from cancer elsewhere in the body. That means if you have cancer or you’re in remission, it’s especially important to seek a medical evaluation for any unusual pain or stiffness in your spine or a change in your spine’s flexibility.

Dr. Chang is skilled in advanced treatment techniques for spine tumors, tailoring each treatment to the size, type, and location of the tumor, among other factors. 

Because spinal tumors can press on nerves and interfere with the way the spine moves, surgery is often recommended to remove all or part of the tumor. Chemotherapy and radiation are other possible treatment options.

Schedule an evaluation

If you have unexplained worsening back pain, don’t ignore it. Call our practice in Roseville, Minnesota, to schedule an office visit with Dr. Chang or request an appointment online today.

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