Spinal Tumours

A spinal tumor is an abnormal growth of cells within or surrounding your spinal cord and/or spinal column. Spinal tumors can be benign or malignant (cancerous).

Schedule an Appointment

Make an Enquiry

What are Spinal Tumours?

A spinal tumor is a growth that develops within your spinal canal or within the bones of your spine.

A spinal cord tumor, also called an intradural tumor, is a spinal tumor that that begins within the spinal cord. A vertebral tumor refers to a type of tumor that affects the bones of the spine.

The spine is made of different types of tissues that span the entire length of your back as well as into your neck and pelvis. A tumor can form in almost every type of tissue.

Spinal tumors can lead to pain, neurological problems and sometimes even paralysis. A spinal tumor can be life-threatening and cause permanent disability.

Primary spinal tumours are rare. Most cases of spinal cord compression are due to spread of cancerous cells from other organs, such as prostate, lung or breast.

An MRI scan is usually ordered for further evaluation. A combination of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgical excision may be required for treatment.

Types of Intradural Tumours

Intramedullary tumors

This type of spinal tumour begins in the cells within the spinal cord itself, such as gliomas, astrocytomas or ependymomas.

Extramedullary tumors

Extramedullary tumors can grow in the membrane surrounding the spinal cord as well as the nerve roots coming out from the spinal cord. These types of tumors may affect spinal cord function by causing spinal cord compression and other spinal issues.


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms?

Back pain is the most common symptom of spinal tumors. Pain from spinal tumours in your middle or lower back is usually more common, this is due to those regions of your spine being more susceptible to the development of tumours.

Pain from a spinal tumor is often described as aching and deep, the pain can start slowly and increase in intensity gradually. It seldom respond well to conservative pain relief medications. It can also become especially persistent during night-time, causing sleep disruption for the patient.

Spinal tumors can also cause radicular pain, which is a type of pain that radiates from your spine to your hips, feet or arms. Radicular pain can often be described as a sharp pain.

What are my treatment options?

Treatment of spinal tumors is often recommended on a case-by-case basis and can differ based on the tumor type, aggressiveness, location and size.

Treatment options for metastatic spinal tumor may include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy, including targeted proton therapy
  • Full or partial surgical removal of the malignant tumour

There are some benign spinal tumors and cysts that may not need treatment, especially in cases where they are not causing symptoms.

How is it diagnosed?

As sufferers of primary spinal tumors are often asymptomatic, they are usually discovered incidentally during an imaging test that was ordered for another condition.

People (especially with a history of cancer) should make it a priority to see their doctor when they are experiencing back pain that does not go away. This is because people with symptomatic spinal tumors tend to wrongly attribute their incessant back pain to a past injury/spinal condition.

Your doctor will assess your risk factors and medical history. They will also check for the following symptoms:

  • Tenderness in your spine.
  • Abnormal reflexes.
  • Muscle weakness.

Targeted Procedures


This procedure is performed through an incision on the lower back. The surgeon removes a section of bone, called the lamina, from one or more vertebrae. This relieves pressure on the nerve roots caused by stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal).

The steps usually involve:

  • 1) Removing the spinous process: First the surgeon removes the spinous process (the back portion of the vertebrae that protrudes furthest from the back of the spine). These are the bones that you feel when you touch the middle portion of your lower back.
  • 2) Removing the Lamina: the surgeon removes the lamina (the portion of the vertebra that covers the nerve roots). Removing the damaged the lamina opens up the spinal canal, taking pressure off the nerves.
  • 3) Clearing bone fragments: There may have some remnant fragments that pinch the nerve roots as they exit the spinal canal in the nerve foramina.


This minimally invasive treatment is used to repair bone fractures caused by osteoporosis or cancer. It stabilises the spine, providing rapid back pain relief and helping prevent further weakening of the spine.

The procedure usually:

  • 1) After an area on the back is numbed, a tube is inserted through a small incision and positioned under x-ray guidance.
  • 2) The weakened area in the vertebra is filled with bone cement to stabilise the fracture. Once filled, the tube is removed. In some cases, the cement may be injected in both the left and right sides of the vertebra.


This minimally invasive procedure treats the spine fractures caused by osteoporosis. It is designed to provide rapid back pain relief and help straighten the spine.

The procedure explained:

  • 1) Through a half-inch incision, small instruments are placed into the fractured vertebral body to create a working channel. A special balloon device is then carefully inserted and inflated to create a cavity. The balloon is then deflated and the cavity is filled with bone cement to stabilise the fracture.

Related Information