Tumours may be found within the spinal cord itself, between the spinal cord and its tough outer covering, the dura, or outside the dura. They may be primary (they arise in the spine or nearby tissue) or metastatic (they have originated in another part of the body and travelled to the spine, usually via the bloodstream).
Spinal tumours may be treated by any combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Surgery may be performed to take a small sample of tissue to examine under the microscope (biopsy) or to remove the tumour. Typically, the patient will be lying face downwards and a procedure known as a laminectomy is performed (the bone overlying the spinal cord is removed). This gives the surgeon access to the spinal cord and allows removal of the tumour.