A vertebral tumor is a type of spinal tumor affecting the bones or vertebrae of the spine. Spinal tumors that begin within the spinal cord or the covering of the spinal cord (dura) are called spinal cord tumors.
Tumors that affect the vertebrae have often spread (metastasized) from cancers in other parts of the body. But there are some types of tumors that start within the bones of the spine, such as chordoma, chondrosarcoma, osteosarcoma, plasmacytoma and Ewing's sarcoma.
A vertebral tumor can affect neurological function by pushing on the spinal cord or nerve roots nearby. As these tumors grow within the bone, they may also cause pain, vertebral fractures or spinal instability.
Whether cancerous or not, a vertebral tumor can be life-threatening and cause permanent disability.
There are many treatment options for vertebral tumors, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, medications or sometimes just monitoring the tumor.
Types of vertebral tumors
Your spine is made up of small bones (vertebrae) stacked on top of one another that enclose and protect the spinal cord and its nerve roots.
Vertebral tumors are classified according to their location in the spine or vertebral column. Vertebral tumors are also known as extradural tumors because they occur outside the spinal cord itself.
Most tumors that affect the vertebrae have spread (metastasized) to the spine from another place in the body — often the prostate, breast, lung or kidney. Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that often metastasizes to the spine. Although the original (primary) cancer is usually diagnosed before back problems develop, back pain may be the first symptom of disease in people with metastatic vertebral tumors.
Tumors that begin in the bones of the spine (primary tumors) are far less common. Plasmacytoma is one type of primary vertebral tumor.
Other tumors, such as osteoid osteomas, osteoblastomas and hemangiomas, also can develop in the bones of the spine.