Spinal tumors are abnormal growths that develop inside the spinal column, usually causing pain and other symptoms. Spine tumors can be described and identified in several different ways. One way to describe a spine tumor is by whether it is primary or metastatic:
A benign tumor is not cancerous and will not spread to other parts of the body. Examples of spinal tumors that are usually benign include neurofibromas, schwannomas, meningiomas, ependymomas, astrocytomas, hemangioblastomas, osteosarcomas, and osteoid osteomas.
A malignant tumor is cancerous. It will destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. Malignant spinal tumors include chordoma, Ewing sarcoma, and occasional tumors of the types mentioned above.
An aggressive tumor grows or (in the case of malignant tumors) spreads quickly.
A slow-growing tumor grows or spreads slowly.
A tumor’s grade is a measure of how aggressive it is likely to be. The grade is usually determined by examining tumor cells under a microscope. The resulting grade is a Roman numeral: often I (least aggressive), II, III, or IV (most aggressive). However, grading systems are different for each kind of tumor.
Having to do with metastasis, which is the spread of cancer from one part of the body to another.
The extent to which cancer has spread in the body. Benign tumors are not staged, because they do not spread.
In metastatic disease, the primary tumor is the original tumor.
In metastatic disease, the secondary tumor represents a spread of the primary tumor. The secondary tumor contains the same cells as the original tumor (for example, lung tumor cells), but they grow in a new location (for example, in the bones of the spinal column).