Vertebral tumor is a type of spinal tumor that occurs at the bone or vertebrae of the spine. Neurological deficit is a symptom when the tumor compresses the spinal cord or nerve root. The growth of the tumor may also lead to fractures of the vertebrae, an unstable spine or pain. Vertebral tumor can be benign or malignant, but either form can result in permanent neurological deficits or life-threatening conditions.
The vertebral body is the common site which other cancers spread to. However, some cancers may primarily originate within the vertebrae of the spine such as chordoma, chondrosarcoma, osteosarcoma, plasmacytoma and Ewing’s sarcoma.
The treatment of vertebral tumor includes surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and medications.
Types of vertebral tumors
The vertebrae are small bones that are stacked to cover and protect the spinal cord. Vertebral tumors are classified depending on their location in the vertebral column or spine. An extradural tumor is found outside the spinal cord.
Most vertebral tumors result from cancer that spread from the other part of the body (metastasis) such as breast, prostate, lung, or kidney cancer. Multiple myeloma is commonly found to metastasize to the spine.
Plasmacytoma is a type of primary vertebral tumor which is rarely found. Osteoid osteomas, osteoblastomas and hemangiomas are also the types of tumors developing in the vertebraes of the spine.
The primary cancer is most commonly diagnosed prior to any symptoms occurring at the back. Metastatic vertebral cancer usually presents with back pain symptoms.
The following signs and symptoms may occur as a result of the tumor growth compressing the spinal nerves, blood vessels, or bones of the spine:
- Back pain that extends to other areas of the body and worsens at night
- Pain on tumor site
- Loss of sensation and muscle weakness
- Less sensitive to pain, heat and cold
- Walking difficulty
- Bladder or bowel functions deterioration
- Mild or severe paralysis
Back pain is caused by many factors which may not be related to a tumor. Consult your doctor if the back pain is persistent, progressive, not related to activities, gets worse at night, or you have a history of cancer and has just recently developed back pain.
On the other hand, if experiencing progressive muscle weakness or numbness in your legs or arms, bladder or bowel function changes, seek medical treatment immediately.
The cause of vertebral tumor is unclear, genetic factors may have some influence to its occurrence or some environmental factors such as certain chemical exposure. Most vertebral tumors result from cancer spread from the other part of the body (metastasis). The most common cancer metastasis to the spine are breast, lung, and prostate.