What Are Spinal Tumors?

Spinal tumors are abnormal lumps of tissue that are located in the bones of the spine (vertebrae) or in the soft tissue between and around the vertebrae. Tumors are lumps of tissue that form when cells grow uncontrollably. There are two basic types of tumors:

  • Benign tumors are not cancerous and do not spread from their original (primary) location. They can come back (recur) at their original location.
  • Malignant tumors are cancerous and have the potential to spread cancer cells to other parts of the body (metastasis).

Both types of tumors can affect your child's backbone (spine).

One of the spine's jobs is to protect the spinal cord, the column of nerves that control the limbs. The spinal cord runs through small, arch-shaped holes in each of the vertebrae.

If a tumor develops within this small space, it can press on the spinal cord and cause pain. In some cases, it can bring on loss of bodily functions, such as movement in arms or legs or bowel and bladder control.

Spinal Tumors in Children

Any child can get a spinal tumor, but they are rare in children.

Spinal Tumors at Seattle Children's

Seattle Children's has the first clinic in the United States where doctors who specialize in bones, joints and muscles (orthopedists) and specialists in cancer (oncologists) work together in the same program.

Our Bone Tumor and Sarcoma Clinic is one of the most experienced in the world. We also work with our Neurosurgery division to manage tumors of the spinal cord at our Complex Spine Clinic, part of our Spine Program.

Our clinics' doctors, nurses, physical therapists and social workers specialize in treating and caring for children and their families. In addition, we have the only clinics in the nation specifically for children that work closely with adult cancer programs.

We share expertise and access to highly sophisticated equipment with the University of Washington. We also work closely with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Northwest Tissue Center.