A spinal tumor is an uncommon cause of back pain. They rarely occur and can be either benign or malignant. Some tumors can metastasize or spread out to other parts of the body. This is done through the arteries, veins, the lymphatic system, and directly depending on the location.
A tumor of the breast, prostate, lung, and kidney can metastasize into the spine increasing the risk of spinal compression. This could lead to neurologic dysfunction and paralysis. Many individuals present with back pain as the key symptom. The pain can worsen at night and have no relation to certain activities. Other symptoms include:
Benign – Noncancerous
Aneurysmal Bone Cysts
Aneurysmal bone cysts or ABCs usually cause pain and swelling. They can be large and typically affect children and adolescents.
This type of spinal tumor usually develops in the vertebral bodies of children and adolescents. If the tumor is systemic it is called histiocytosis X. However, these tumors rarely lead to vertebral collapse and paraparesis. And also rarely but on occasion, they can heal spontaneously on their own.
Giant Cell Tumor
This type of spinal tumor affects children, adolescents, and young adults. They can be found around the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar segments of the spine, but are more common in the sacrum region.
These tumors can be large, aggressive, and painful. They affect children and adolescents. They can sometimes cause spinal deformity and paralysis.
This a slow-growing spinal tumor that comes from cartilage and usually affects adolescents. It is uncommon and typically found in the posterior or rear of the spine.
A very small bone tumor that is less than 2 cm. It typically affects adolescents. It is known to cause night pain and can result in spinal deformity.
Malignant – Cancerous
This is typically seen in adults. About 50% involves the sacrum, but it can affect other regions of the spine. These tumors usually require aggressive treatment.
This tumor affects the spinal cartilage in middle-aged adults. It grows slowly but can be dangerous. Aggressive medical treatment is required.
An aggressive spinal tumor that affects adolescents and young adults. In certain cases, it can metastasize.
Lymphoma can present in one or more vertebral bodies. It affects middle-aged and older adults. The lymphatic system can sometimes be involved.
This is a bone cancer that develops in adolescents and middle-aged adults. It can metastasize and require aggressive medical treatment.
Plasmacytoma typically presents in middle-aged and older adults. They usually present in the pedicle and vertebral body and can cause paraparesis.
Back pain does not always mean that there is a tumor present. But if back pain does not resolve or if neurologic symptom/s are experienced, early medical intervention/treatment is definitely warranted. A primary spinal tumor or those that originate in the spine are uncommon. However, metastatic spinal tumors are.
Spinal tumors are not a common cause of back pain, but if there is pain whose cause cannot be identified and continues with no change, it could be an indicator of something more going on. Persistent pain, specifically if it is not brought on with activity or if it worsens at night, could be a potential red flag needing further examination by x-ray, CT, or MRI. Metastatic tumors, that spread from another area such as the lung, breast, colon, and prostate are a more common type of spinal tumor. Individuals with a family history of cancer that develop back pain out of nowhere should be examined to exclude a spinal tumor.
Low Back & Neck Pain Treatment
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