Tumours of the spine and
spinal cord are relatively uncommon. The most common
initial symptom that patients with a spinal tumour
have is pain. Because back pain is very common,
it is also not a specific symptom of any one disease
or medical condition. Spinal cord tumours can be
either primary (originating in the spinal cord)
or secondary (metastases of cancer that originated
elsewhere in the body). Therefore, the challenge
is to determine how to evaluate back pain with the
goal of specifically excluding a tumour as the cause
of the pain. Luckily, most back pain is not due
to a tumour. However, if a cancer were discovered
after a long period of "conservative" management
of back pain, most patients would feel that their
problem should have been investigated more thoroughly
in the beginning.
Doctors use the term
"benign" to indicate that a particular tumour
is unlikely to spread to other parts of the body.
Benign tumours can still be a significant problem
however, depending upon their location, size,
adjacent structures, blood supply, and other factors.
Fortunately, most benign tumours can be treated
use the term "malignant" to indicate that a particular
tumour or a cancer often spreads to other parts
of the body, and can be difficult to cure or treat.
This is very different from "benign" cancers,
which are much less likely to spread, are easier
to treat and control.