How Dangerous Are Spinal Cord Cysts and What Percentage Is Cancerous?


Quick Answer

Spinal cord cysts can become dangerous if they cause scoliosis and chronic pain, but they are not cancerous on their own. The condition involving spinal cord cysts is called syringomyelia, which can result from spinal cord tumors, but more often occurs due to other factors, Mayo Clinic says.

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Full Answer

The most common condition that leads to syringomyelia is Chiari malformation. Chiari malformation is when brain tissue protrudes into the spinal cord, which can cause fluid-filled cysts to appear. Spinal cord tumors may lead to the development of cysts, but many tumors are benign, Mayo Clinic states. Overall, cysts are not likely to be an indication of cancer, and more than 50 percent of cases are noncancerous. The cysts may not ever produce symptoms in the body, so doctors may never need to interfere with them.

Large cysts can cause chronic pain, an abnormal curve in the spine, and difficulties walking. In those cases, doctors may remove the cyst, or syrinx, via surgery. Various procedures can drain the cyst or remove it altogether, Mayo Clinic notes. Though surgery may not completely correct syringomyelia, patients can expect to live full lives. Cysts are not normally dangerous unless they begin causing serious problems or result from malignant spinal cord tumors.

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