Spinal Tumors — They're More Common Than You Think

May 12, 2023

Spinal Tumors — They're More Common Than You Think

The team at Coastal Spine includes board-certified orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, and physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians who deliver comprehensive diagnostic services and care for simple to highly complex spine disorders.

Read what our experienced specialists want you to know about spinal tumors and their effects on your overall health and quality of life.

What’s a spinal tumor?

A spinal tumor is an abnormal growth of cells that can occur anywhere along the spine but is most common in the thoracic (mid to upper back) and lumbar spine (lower back).

These growths may develop in the bones of the spinal column (vertebrae), within the spinal cord, in the tissue (meninges) surrounding the cord, or in the space between the meninges and spinal bones.

Spinal tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Some are primary tumors, meaning they first develop in the spine, while secondary tumors spread (metastasize) from cancerous growths elsewhere in the body.

About 10,000 people develop secondary spinal tumors yearly, most frequently spreading from lung, breast, or prostate cancer.

Primary spinal cord tumors are less common, and most are benign. However, even benign tumors can compromise the health and mobility of the spine by pressing on surrounding nerves or other structures as they grow. 

What are the symptoms of a spinal tumor?

Spinal tumor symptoms can vary, depending on the tumor’s location and size, but may include:

  • Pain at the tumor site, often worse at night
  • Spreading pain, often felt in the arms, hips, legs, or feet
  • Decreased sensitivity to pain, heat, or cold below the tumor site
  • Muscle weakness in the arms, legs, or other areas
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Difficulty walking

Back pain is common and often not related to a tumor. However, pain from a spinal tumor often presents differently than other types of back pain.

For instance, it isn’t usually associated with an injury but may worsen when exercising, sneezing, or coughing. It typically starts slowly and gradually increases, often described as achy and deep initially but tends to intensify over time.

When should you see a doctor for back pain?

Our team at Coastal Spine recommends coming in for an evaluation whenever you’re concerned about back pain. However, schedule a visit sooner rather than later if you experience worsening back pain despite rest and other home care or have a known history of cancer.

Also, seek urgent care if you lose control of your bowels or bladder, develop numbness in your extremities, or find walking difficult. These symptoms could indicate nerve compression that requires immediate care.

Your initial evaluation at Coastal Spine includes a physical exam, a careful review of your symptoms and medical history, and advanced diagnostic studies as necessary to identify the cause of your symptoms. 

Based on those results, we develop customized treatment plans designed to relieve your discomfort and tackle the underlying cause of your symptoms.

Schedule a visit today by calling one of our six New Jersey offices or requesting an appointment online.