Spinal Tumors – Types & Stages

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Types of Spinal Tumors

Spinal cancer refers to any cancerous tumor that originates in the nerve, bone, or other cells of the spine. There are several specific types of spinal cancer, delineated based off of what type of cell the cancer originates from.

Vertebral Column Tumors

These tumors form in the vertebral column, growing either directly from the bone or from a disc between vertebrae. These cancers are rare, grow slowly, and most commonly affect young adults. Vertebral column tumors may be primary tumors, which mean the tumor begins in the spine, or metastatic tumors, which are tumors that occur from cancer that has spread from another organ like the prostate or lung.

Intradural/Extramedullary Tumors

These grow underneath the membrane covering the spinal cord, in an area known as the spinal canal. They do not grow directly from the nerves of the spinal cord. In most cases, these tumors are benign (noncancerous) and grow slowly, although because of their location, they may cause pain or weakness. There are two main types of IntraduralExtramedullary tumors:

  • Meningiomas: These form in the membrane surrounding the spinal cord. They may be malignant, but are usually benign, and they’re most common in middle aged to older women.
  • Nerve Sheath Tumors: Another tumor that is most commonly benign and slow growing, these form in the nerve roots that branch off the spinal cord. While they can be serious, it usually takes years of growth before they cause any neurological problems.

Intramedullary Tumors

These are the deepest type of spinal tumor, forming from inside the spinal cord itself. Often arising in the cervical spine (neck), intramedullary tumors are normally benign and slow growing. However, because they exist within the spinal cord, surgical removal often presents serious difficulties.

Stages of Spinal Cancer

Unlike many other forms of cancer, spinal tumors are not evaluated using a four or five-level staging system. This is because spinal tumors differ from other cancers in some important ways.

One of the most dangerous things about cancer is its ability to spread throughout the body. While tumors that begin in the brain and spine can spread throughout the nervous system, it’s exceedingly rare for them to spread to other parts of the body. The danger of a spinal tumor is that it may press on the spinal cord or other nerve tissue, causing impairment and neurological issues.

Instead of using a traditional four-part staging system, your cancer doctor will evaluate your spinal tumor based on a number of factors to create an overall outlook. Some of these factors include:

  • Your age
  • The tumor’s impact on brain or nerve function so far
  • The type of tumor
  • The grade of the tumor, which measures the abnormality of the cells and how fast the tumor will grow
  • The size and location of the tumor
  • How easily the tumor can be removed via surgery
  • The extent to which the tumor has spread to other locations in the spinal cord or the body.

Schedule a Consultation with Your Orange County, CA Radiation Therapy Center

A spinal cancer diagnosis is a frightening experience no matter the type or outlook – but no matter what you’re up against, the treatment team at OC CyberKnife is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you beat cancer, or call us at 714.962.7100 to request a consultation and start on the road to recovery. We look forward to helping you get back to a normal, healthy life through quality cancer treatment.