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Chordomas are malignant tumors that grow in the back of the skull base, near the brainstem. These tumors are rare, diagnosed in only one in 1 million patients per year. Chordomas are slow-growing and can often grow for years without symptoms. They also have a high rate of recurrence and frequently metastasize, often to the lungs.

How do chordomas develop?

A developing embryo has a collection of cells called notochord cells. These cells are important in the development of the spine, but since all of those cells aren’t needed after birth, they generally disappear. In some cases, however, those leftover cells do not disappear and when this happens, there is a slim chance for those cells to turn into chordomas later in life.

What are the symptoms of a chordoma?

As a chordoma grows larger, it can press on the brain, nerves and the spinal cord, causing the following symptoms:

  • Weakness, numbness or tingling in the back, arms or legs
  • Vision problems
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Lack of bladder or bowel control
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty with balance 
  • Facial numbness

How are chordomas treated?

At Moffitt Cancer Center, our multispecialty team within our Neuro-Oncology Program specializes in diagnosing and treating chordomas. Treatment often involves highly specialized surgery to remove the tumor and any surrounding tissue that might have been affected. With Moffitt, you’ll not only have a team of experienced neurosurgeons, medical oncologists and neurologists, but also clinical psychologists and supportive care specialists to help you through the entire journey.

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Michael Vogelbaum, Program Leader, Department of Neuro-Oncology.

If you would like to schedule a consultation with an oncologist who specializes in chordomas at Moffitt Cancer Center, call us today at 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online.