Spinal cord tumor


Spinal cord tumor (also called an intradural tumor) is a type of spinal tumor that occurs in the spinal cord or the dura.

Spinal column is the flexible bone at the back that protects the spinal cord. Spinal cord is compose out of nerves and cells that carries impulses from the brain to the body. The bones are called vertebrae in which the spinal column is composed of 33 vertebrae, and it is divided into 5 sections, the cervical (5 vertebrae), thoracic (12 vertebrae), lumbar (5 vertebrae), sacrum (5 fused small vertebrae), and coccyx (4 fused small vertebrae). The column starts at the base of the skull and ends at the tailbone.

Spinal cord tumors are being classified based on the location of the tumor inside or outside the spinal cord. The following are the categories of spinal cord tumor.

  • Intramedullary tumors – the tumor had developed within the spinal cord such as gliomas, astrocytoma or ependymoma.
  • Extramedullary tumors – The tumor are located outside the spinal cord such as meningiomas, neurofibromas, nerve sheath tumors and schwannomas.

The growth of the spinal tumors could cause pain, as well as neurological deficits. If left untreated it could lead to paralysis, life-threatening conditions, and lifetime disability.
The treatment of spinal cord tumor include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, medication.

Different types of spinal tumor.

  • Astrocytoma – a benign or malignant tumor of the cells inside the spinal cord.
  • Chordoma – a rare malignant tumor that develop at the tailbone (coccyx) or at the skull
  • Ependymoma – a tumor at the lining of the spinal fluid in the brain and spinal cord.
  • Glioma – a malignant tumor that form from cells that occurs at brain at spinal cord.
  • Meningioma – a benign tumor of the tissue that surrounds the spinal cord and the brain. Can be a life-threatening condition if left untreated.
  • Neurofibroma – a benign tumor that develop at the spinal nerves.
  • Schwannanoma – a rare benign tumor of the cells that surrounds the spinal nerves.


The following signs and symptoms may develop as a result of the tumor growth compressing the spinal nerves, blood vessels, or bones of the spine:

  • Back pain, worsening at night
  • Pain at the site where the tumor is growing
  • Bowel incontinence and/or urinary incontinence
  • Walking difficulties and risk of fall
  • Less sensitive to heat, cold, and pain
  • Loss of sensation and/or muscle weakness, especially in your arms or legs

If you notice any of the signs and symptoms that are persistent then you could make an appointment with your doctor.


Causes of the tumor have not yet determined by the specialists, but risk factors had been identified that increase the risk of having a spine tumor. Some cases may be caused by chemical or substance exposure that cause cancer.

Risk factors

Factors that may increase Spinal cord tumor risk includes.

  • Neurofibromatosis 2 - a hereditary disorder, where a benign tumor developed on or surrounds the olfactory nerves. The problem may lead to hearing loss of one or both ears.
  • Von Hippel-Lindau disease – a rare disorder that is associated with blood vessel tumors (hemangioblastomas) in the brain, retina and spinal cord.