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A Patients' Guide to Spinal Tumors

Tumor development and growth

Where do spinal tumors grow?
Spinal tumors can develop (grow) within the spine's bony structures and/or spinal cord (neural structures). A spinal tumor may develop at one or more levels of the spine; neck (cervical), mid back (thoracic), low back (lumbar), lower (sacrum), or tailbone (coccyx).

Spinal tumors can develop inside the spinal cord (called intramedullary), within any of the three membranes (called meninges) that cover and protect the spinal cord, between the spinal cord and spine bone, and/or only bone (called extradural). Of course, as a spinal tumor grows it may compress parts of the spine including its blood vessels and nerves.

Do all tumors grow at the same rate?
In general, benign (noncancerous) tumors develop slowly. Sometimes a slow growing tumor takes years before causing a problem or symptoms. Cancerous tumors (malignant) tend to grow more quickly.

Different types of spinal tumors - benign or malignant - are explained in the section Types of Spinal Tumors.

How can a cancerous spinal tumor spread?
The tumor may grow into or invade a nearby vertebral (bone) or neural (spinal cord, nerve) structure, spread through blood circulating throughout the spine, and/or through the lymphatic system (watery body fluid that helps to fight infection).


Updated on: 02/06/10

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