Spine Conditions

What are spinal tumours?

Spinal tumours are masses of abnormal cells which form around the spinal cord and/or spinal column.

There are three types of spinal tumours: extradural, intramedullary and extramedullary tumours.

Extradural spinal tumours are common spine tumours that occur inside the spinal column. They are typically found on the outside of the dura, which is the spinal cord’s protective tissue.

Intradural-extramedullary spine tumours are located within the dura but outside the spinal cord. However, they potentially come into contact with the spinal cord and spinal nerves.

Intramedullary tumours are located inside the spinal cord itself.

Other Spinal Masses

Our bodies can also form masses that look like tumours, but are not. These include epidural lipomatosis (a fat growth inside the the epidural), synovial cysts of the facet joint and arachnoid cysts.

Some medical conditions can also mimic tumours, but do not need surgery. These conditions include plaque caused by multiple sclerosis and transverse myelitis disease.

What are symptoms of spinal tumours?Shoulder and Neck Pain | Spinal Tumours | Dr Raj Reddy | Neurosurgeon | Sydney, Australia

Symptoms of a benign or malignant spinal tumour include:

  • back pain
  • neck pain
  • numbness or tingling caused by the tumour compressing your spinal cord or pinching your nerves
  • weakness in your arms or legs

However, some people who have spinal tumours do not experience symptoms. It is important that you have regular check ups with your GP. They can conduct medical and physical examinations to diagnose any potential conditions.

How are spinal tumours treated?

A neurosurgeon can detect a spine tumour by conducting thorough physical, neurological and historical examinations.

Depending on the particular condition, a neurosurgeon may assess that regular monitoring is the best treatment. For other types of tumours and cysts, they may recommend surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy – or a combination of these – to remove or de-bulk the tumour.

A neurosurgeon can also administer oral medication to help control any pain.


Images by Injury Map under a Creative Commons license.


  1. Schellinger, K. A., Propp, J. M., Villano, J. L., & McCarthy, B. J. (2008). Descriptive epidemiology of primary spinal cord tumors. Journal of neuro-oncology, 87(2), 173-179.
  2. Ciftdemir, M., Kaya, M., Selcuk, E., & Yalniz, E. (2016). Tumors of the spine. World journal of orthopedics, 7(2), 109.