What You Should Know About Chordomas

Chordomas are rare, slow-growing, and difficult to treat tumors that can occur in any part of the spine, as well as the base of the skull and the sacral region. They often develop inside the bones of the spine—the vertebrae—but can spread to other parts of the body. Chordomas may be present from birth or develop much later in life, and can cause a range of health problems depending on their location.

Chordomas are typically slow-growing tumors, but some evidence suggests they may grow more rapidly if left untreated. If they metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body, they can be difficult to treat. Chordomas are generally not a hereditary disease, meaning they are not passed down from parent to child.

The exact cause of these tumors is unknown. However, certain inherited genetic conditions, such as Carney Triad, Turcot Syndrome, and Neurofibromatosis-2, may increase the risk of developing a chordoma.

Signs and Symptoms of Chordomas

The signs and symptoms of chordomas depend on their location and how far the tumor has spread. In general, however, patients may experience:

  • Pain or numbness in the affected area
  • Weakness or difficulty moving the affected area
  • Swelling or a visible lump
  • Changes in bowel or bladder function
  • Trouble with balance or coordination
  • Headaches
  • Changes in hearing or vision

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to speak to your doctor as soon as possible.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Chordomas

Chordomas are typically diagnosed using imaging techniques such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI. If the tumor is located within the skull or spine, a biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment depends on the size and location of the tumor. Surgery is often necessary to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Radiation therapy is then typically recommended to slow growth and reduce any residual tumor cells. In some cases, chemotherapy may also be used.

Chordomas are rarely cured completely, but in many cases the symptoms can be managed and the growth of the tumor can be slowed. Depending on the tumor’s location, the effects can be mild or severe. Working closely with your medical team is important to ensure the best possible outcome.