Spinal tumors are relatively rare spinal problems. They may be classified as either benign or malignant depending on the tendency for the tumor to spread. Malignant tumors are known to metastasize (spread) via arteries, veins, the lymphatic system, and directly. The most common malignant tumors in the spine spread from the breast, prostate, lung, or kidney to the spinal column. Spinal tumors can be dangerous when they cause spinal canal compression, which may lead to neurologic dysfunction (e.g. paralysis) or when then destroy portions of the spine leading to spinal instability.
Many patients will present with back pain as the primary symptom. Pain from a spinal tumor is often worse at rest or at night and may or may not be related to activity. Other symptoms may include weakness, numbness, paraparesis (slight paralysis), spinal deformity (e.g. scoliosis, kyphosis) and/or fever.