A Patients' Guide to Spinal Tumors

Spine 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 anywhere within the spine and at any level:

  • Cervical spine (neck)
  • Thoracic spine (mid back)
  • Lumbar spine (low back)
  • Sacral spine (lower back)
  • Coccyx (tailbone)

Spinal tumors can develop inside the spinal cord (called intramedullary), within any of the three membranes (called spinal 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 the blood vessels and nerves.

Illustration of the spinal cord labeledDo 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 and invade a nearby vertebral body, spinal cord, and/or epidural space. Cancer cells may be carried by circulating blood or through the lymphatic system (watery body fluid that helps to fight infection).

human body's lymphatic system labeled


Updated on: 04/27/17
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Symptoms of a Spinal Tumor
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Symptoms of a Spinal Tumor

Benign and malignant spinal tumors almost always present with back pain as the foremost symptom. Coincidentally, back pain is also the most common symptom of non-tumor spinal disorders.
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