Malignant spinal tumours can spread via arteries, veins, the lymphatic system, and malignant tumours of the breast, prostate, lung, and kidney can spread into the spine.
Whether malignant or benign, spinal tumours can be dangerous when they cause spinal canal compression, which may lead to neurological dysfunction (e.g. paralysis).
Benign spinal tumours usually found in children and adolescents include:
- Osteochondroma – an uncommon slow growing tumour of the cartilage in the posterior (rear) spine.
- Osteoid Osteoma –a small bone tumor (less than 2 cm) that may result in spinal deformity.
- Eosinophilic Granuloma - usually seen in the vertebral body and if systemic it is termed Histiocytosis X. Rarely leads to vertebral collapse and paraparesis and may heal.
- Osteoblastoma – these can be large, aggressive, and painful sometimes causing spinal deformity and paralysis.
- Aneurysmal Bone Cysts (ABCs) - these can be large and quite vascular, typically cause pain and swelling.
- Giant Cell Tumour - these tumours can be found at the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar segments of the spine, but are more common in the sacrum.
Spinal tumours affecting adults include:
- Hemangioma – a benign tumour usually affecting the thoracic spine and known to be progressive vascular masses that can cause vertebral collapse and paraparesis (slight paralysis).
- Plasmacytoma – a malignant tumour common in the pedicle and vertebral body and may cause Para paresis.
- Ewing's Sarcoma - an aggressive tumour affecting adolescents and young adults. In some cases, it may metastasize.
- Lymphoma – this is malignant and may present in one or more vertebral bodies in middle aged or older adults, occasionally affecting the lymphatic system.
- Chondrosarcoma - a slow growing but dangerous malignant tumour affecting spinal cartilage in middle-aged adults. Usually aggressive medical intervention is required.
- Osteosarcoma - a malignant bone cancer found in adolescents and middle-aged adults. These tumours may metastasize requiring aggressive medical therapy.
- Chordoma - usually seen in adults and frequently (50%) involving the sacrum, although it can affect other parts of the spine. These tumours often require aggressive medical therapy.