Spinal cancer or spinal tumour, is a growth of cells (mass) in or surrounding the spinal cord. Tumours of the spinal cord can be primary (arises in the spinal column) or secondary spinal tumours (metastasis from cancer elsewhere in the body). Primary spinal tumours can be cancerous or benign (most are malignant).
Primary spinal tumour: If the cancer is not treated it will continue to grow. Primary spinal tumours usually grow slowly hence the symptoms such as pain, unilateral motor weakness, sensory loss, and autonomic dysfunction progress slowly. As the tumours are relatively slow growing the overall prognosis is favourable in most cases. According to research the five-year survival rates of primary malignant brain and spinal cord tumour are 28.8 percent for males and 31.6 percent for females. The five-year survival rate indicates the percentage of people with the disease who are still alive five years after diagnosis (factors such as signs or symptoms of cancer, presence or absence of disease, or treatment are not considered).
Secondary spinal tumour: Secondary spinal tumours are metastasis to spine from some other cancer in the body. Some of the common sites from where cancer spreads to spine are lung, breast, prostate, thyroid and kidney. Secondary spinal tumours grow rapidly and survival rate of secondary spinal tumours is not good. The average median survival is about 10 months and the survival drops significantly to about 3 months if spinal cord compression occurs. Studies indicate that only about 10% to 20% of patients with secondary spinal tumours are alive two years after the metastases are diagnosed.
Recurrent spinal tumour: A cancer which recurs (come back) after it has been treated is known as recurrent cancer. Spinal tumours spread through the CSF to other parts of the body. They commonly metastasize to the bones, soft tissues and viscera. In cases with metastasis spinal tumour has a tendency to reoccur after treatment. Prognosis of recurrent spinal tumour is poor.