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A spinal cord tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue usually categorized by the type of cell where it begins, or by the area in the spinal cord where it occurs. There are more than 120 types of tumors affecting the spinal cord and brain.

Spinal cord tumors may be classified as either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), depending on their behavior. The tumor can either originate in the spinal cord itself (primary tumor), or come from another part of the body and travel to the spinal cord (metastatic or secondary tumor).

Malignant tumors contain cancer cells. Primary spinal cord malignant tumors rarely spread to other areas of the body, but may recur after treatment. Sometimes, benign tumors can be life-threatening because of their size and location and the damage they can do to vital functions of the brain.

Symptoms of spinal cord tumors can vary widely depending on the size and location of the tumor as well as other factors. However, the following are some of the common symptoms include:

  • Back pain
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis
  • Balance and coordination problems
  • Abnormal sensations in legs, hand or fingers
  • Loss of bowel or bladder function

The symptoms of a spinal cord tumor may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.