What Is Spine Cancer Called?


Quick Answer

Spine cancer is most often simply called spine cancer, spinal cancer or spinal tumors. Individual tumors are given technical names based upon location and where the cancer originated from.

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Full Answer

Osteosarcoma is the technical term for cancer of the bony vertebrae. Note that "osteo-" is a prefix meaning "bone," and osteosarcomas can be located on any bone of the body. For it to be spine cancer, osteosarcoma of the spine must be specified. Chordoma is the technical term for spinal tumors that develop from the tissue that was once the fetal notochord, according to Cancer Research UK. Chordomas can also develop on the skull so, again, chordoma of the spine must be specified.

Meningioma is the technical term for spinal tumors that grow within the membrane encasing the spinal chord, according to Spine-Health. Schwannomas and neurofibromas are spinal tumors that grow from the nerve roots inside the spine. Astrocytomas and ependymomas grow from the nerves themselves or from the glial cells that provide physical support to those nerves.

According to the National Cancer Institute, most spinal tumors are metastatic, meaning that they originate from elsewhere in the body. These metastatic tumors retain the name of the tissue they originated from; hence, a tumor that has spread from the breast to the spine is still called breast cancer, not spine cancer.

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