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Spinal Cord Tumors Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. www.ninds.nih.gov Spinal tumors are classified into three major groups based on where they are found.
Tumors between the bony spinal canal and the tough membrane called dura mater that protects the spinal cord. These are usually metastatic tumors and most often arise in the vertebrae themselves.
Tumors inside the dura, but outside of spinal cord. These are usually nerve sheath tumors or meningiomas.
Tumors inside the spinal cord. These are usually astrocytomas or ependymomas. Common symptoms that result from this include:
Pain. Normally, the spinal cord carries important warnings about pain from the body's nerves to the brain. By putting pressure on the spinal cord, a tumor can trigger these circuits and cause pain that feels as if it is coming from various parts of the body. This pain is often constant, sometimes severe, and can have a burning or aching quality. Sensory changes. Many people with spinal cord tumors suffer a loss of sensation. This usually takes the form of numbness and decreased skin sensitivity to temperature.
Motor problems. Since the nerves control the muscles, tumors that affect nerve communication can trigger a number of muscle-related symptoms. Early symptoms include muscle weakness; spasticity in which the muscles stay stiffly contracted; and impaired bladder and/or bowel control. If untreated, symptoms may worsen to include muscle wasting and paralysis. In addition, some people develop an abnormal walking rhythm known as ataxia. LifeART Collection Images Copyright © 1989-2001 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, MD