01 March 2022, Monday

Spinal Cancer: Types, Symptoms and Diagnosis


Spinal cancer is a rare condition that affects about 1 in 140 men and 1 in 180 women. Abnormal development in the cells within the spinal cord itself or from its surrounding structures, recognized as a neoplasm (a cancerous tumor), is called spinal cancer or spinal tumor. Depending on where the tumor originated in the spinal cord, it may be primary or secondary, resulting from metastasis (the spread of malignant cells).

Malignant primary spine tumors are rare; however, they occur more often than non-malignant tumors. Most spinal cancers are secondary tumors that originate from metastasis.

One percent of all central nervous system lymphomas are spinal lymphomas, which may take the form of lymphoma. Spinal cancer is more common as people become older, and it may affect both sexes equally. This blog covers informational content on Spinal Cancer.

Types of Spinal Cancer

Primary spinal cancer (cancer that starts in the spine) is uncommon. In terms of spinal cancers, there are two types: primary tumors and secondary tumors (metastatic). Bone cancer is the origin of primary spinal cancer. Cancers that originate in the spinal cord include:

  • Osteosarcoma: Usually found in the knee or upper arm, osteosarcoma is the most frequent bone cancer. However, it may also develop in the spinal bones. Children, adolescents, and young adults are more likely than adults to develop it.
  • Chondrosarcoma: Any bone with cartilage may be affected by this kind of bone cancer. Adults are more likely to be diagnosed with this form of cancer since the risk of having it rises with age.
  • Chordoma: After birth, chordomas, or spinal tumors, may develop if notochord cells aren’t eliminated. There is a high probability that this uncommon cancer will develop at or near the spine’s base (lower back). According to the American Cancer Society, males are twice as likely as women to suffer the disease, which often strikes after 30.
  • Ewing Sarcoma: This is the second most prevalent bone cancer discovered in children. Radiation works better on these tumors than on certain other types of bone cancer.

When cancer spreads from another body region to the spine, it causes a secondary or metastatic tumor. Spinal metastasis is a hallmark of this kind of cancer (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, or sacrum). There is a 30-70 percent possibility that cancer may spread to the spine in a cancer patient. The most common kinds of cancer that cause spine tumors include:

  • Lung cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Kidney cancer

Symptoms of Spine Cancer

Symptoms and signs include:

  • Pain at the location of tumor.
  • Back discomfort that commonly radiates to other regions of the body.
  • Being less responsive to pain, heat, and cold.
  • Constipation or urination problems.
  • Difficulty walking, which may lead to falls.
  • A backache that is more pronounced at night.
  • Muscle weakness or lack of sensation, particularly in the arms or legs.
  • Different portions of your body may suffer from minor or severe muscle weakness.
  • Back discomfort is a typical sign of spinal tumors in the early stages of their development. Even with therapy, the pain might migrate to your hips, legs, feet, or arms, and it can become worse with time.
  • The progression of spinal tumors varies based on the specific kind of tumor.

How to Diagnose Spine Cancer?

Due to their rarity and the similarity of their symptoms with more prevalent ailments, your doctor must have a thorough knowledge of your medical history and do both a general physical examination and a neurological examination.

Several tests may assist your doctor find out whether you have a spinal tumor if they suspect it:

  • Spinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): To get reliable pictures of your spinal cord, nerves, and spine, an MRI employs a strong magnetic field and radio waves. For diagnosing the spinal cord and adjacent tissue malignancies, MRI is the most often used diagnostic. During the test, a contrast agent may be injected into a vein in your hand or forearm to enhance the visibility of particular tissues and structures.

It’s not uncommon for folks to experience claustrophobia or a fear of the MRI scanner’s jarring pounding noise. There are ways to deal with the noise, such as earplugs. Ask for a moderate sedative if you’re very nervous. General anesthesia may be required in certain cases.

  • Computerized tomography (CT): An X-ray beam is focused on your spine to obtain high-resolution pictures. A contrast dye may be given simultaneously to visualize aberrant changes in the spinal canal or spinal cord. Only seldom is a CT scan utilized to detect spinal malignancies.
  • Biopsy: Only a microscopic examination of a tiny tissue sample (biopsy) may reveal the precise nature of a spinal tumor. Treatment choices will be determined in part by the findings of the biopsy.


Depending on the kind and degree of the illness, there are various treatment options for spinal cancer. There are a variety of surgical techniques available, from the most conservative to the most drastic. In addition, it is possible to treat the condition using surgery, interventional radiology, and chemotherapy.

To know more about spinal tumors, book an appointment with our experts.


    Dr. Chetan Anchan

    MS - Orthopaedics, Diploma in Orthopaedics,

    FCPS - Mid. & Gynae, MBBS

    About Author - Dr. Chetan Anchan is an expert and well known orthopaedic surgeon and oncologist from Mumbai. He has a vast experience in treating all types of Malignant and Benign, Bone and Soft Tissue Tumors, and Skeletal Metastases.

    To book an appointment, call: +91 – 93244 27302

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