Any type of tumor may occur in the spine, including:
A small number of spinal tumors occur in the nerves of the spinal cord itself. Most often these are ependymomas and other gliomas.
Tumors that start in spinal tissue are called primary spinal tumors. Tumors that spread to the spine from some other place (metastasis) are called secondary spinal tumors. Tumors may spread to the spine from the breast, prostate, lung, and other areas.
The cause of primary spinal tumors is unknown. Some primary spinal tumors occur with genetic defects.
Spinal tumors can occur:
- Inside the spinal cord (intramedullary)
- In the membranes (meninges) covering the spinal cord (extramedullary - intradural)
- Between the meninges and bones of the spine (extradural)
Or, tumors may extend from other locations. Most spinal tumors are extradural.
As it grows, the tumor can affect the:
- Blood vessels
- Bones of the spine
- Nerve roots
- Spinal cord cells
The tumor may press on the spinal cord or nerve roots, causing damage. With time, the damage may become permanent.