Most spinal column tumors have spread from another area of the body (metastatic), with the majority originally coming from tumors in the breast, prostate, kidney, lung or thyroid.
These malignant tumors usually produce back pain that does not diminish with rest, and the nighttime pain may be worse than daytime pain.
The metastatic tumors are usually associated with other symptoms such as loss of appetite, unplanned weight loss, nausea and vomiting, or fever/chills/shakes. This type of tumor tends to occur in older adults. Often, the patient already has a known primary tumor in another part of the body.
Primary tumors (non-metastatic) of the spinal column are very rare. Primary tumors tend to occur in younger adults.
If the primary tumor causes a fracture in the spine or leads to neurological problems, surgery is usually needed to stabilize the spine.
If the tumor causes back pain only, and is sensitive to radiation, radiation therapy can often diminish the pain without spine surgery.