Spinal Tumors



The most common cause is the spread of cancer from other parts of the body. Any cancer in the body can spread to the bones around the spinal cord. The cancers that do this most often are:

  • Lung cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Gynecologic cancer

Less often the cancers will spread to the spinal cord itself.

Tumors can also start growing in the spinal cord or the nerves that come from it.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of spinal tumors are:

  • A weak immune system
  • History of cancer



Small tumors may not cause any health problems. Larger tumors may press on or affect nearby nerves or blood vessels. The most common health problem is back pain that was not caused by an injury. The pain may get worse over time and spread to the hips, legs, or arms.

Other health problems will depend on where the tumor is. A person may have:

  • Problems sensing cold, heat, or pain in the legs, arms, or chest
  • Loss of muscle strength in the legs, arms, or chest
  • Problems using the arms and legs for basic tasks like walking
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control
  • Paralysis


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. Neurological tests may also be done to look for the source of back or neck problems.

Pictures of the spine will be taken. This can be done with:

  • X-rays
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan

Other tests may be done to learn more about the tumor.



Treatment will depend on the type of tumor and where it is. Choices may include one or more of the following:

  • Watching a benign tumor that is not causing problems
  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells with drugs
  • Radiation therapy to kill cancer cells or shrink the tumor with radiation


There are no known ways to prevent spinal tumors.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.