Fast Facts About Chordoma

Chordoma is a unique type of bone cancer for several reasons. Though it’s exceedingly rare, there is a wide age range of those diagnosed. However, depending on age, there is a wide variance in the frequency of diagnoses amongst men and women. It can also be found in a few specific locations, that each present slightly different symptoms and can require very different treatment options.

It’s extremely slow-growing; so much so that most individuals can go years before even noticing the presence of a tumor at all. Metastasis is fairly common among patients, and Chordomas are predisposed to local recurrence.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the nuances of Chordoma at a high level, including who is most affected, what typical symptoms are, and how it is diagnosed and treated. As always, this blog is not a substitute for a medical consultation and is meant for educational purposes only.

What is Chordoma?

Chordoma is a cancer typically found near the tailbone or where the skull meets the spine, and is known to grow very slowly and is exceedingly rare. In fact, in certain patient cases, the individual can live for years while the tumor grows without noticing any change.

Numerically, the global diagnosis statistics for Chordoma are just 1-in-1 Million, and it’s most commonly found among those in their 50s and 60s, though not exclusively so.

Due to the locations where Chordoma occurs, treatment can be challenging.

 

Who is most affected by Chordoma?

As we mentioned, those in their 50s and 60s are most frequently diagnosed, but the age range does vary quite a bit. Less than 5% of all Chordoma diagnoses are pediatric.

In terms of gender, Chordoma is interesting in that it shifts in frequency based on the age of the individual experiencing symptoms. Among pediatric and young adult cases, it’s actually slightly more common among females. However, the older a patient is the more likely it is to occur among males – especially in that common age range of 50 to 65.

 

What are the causes of Chordoma?

Researchers are actively investigating the causes of Chordoma but a definitive cause has yet to be identified. We do know that these tumors develop from tissue called the notochord – an embryonic structure that disappears when a fetus reaches 8 weeks of development, but can leave some cells behind that can become cancerous.

There has been some evidence of Chordoma being hereditary, but these cases are too few to represent a consensus. No environmental factors have been identified that result in Chordoma tumors.

 

What are the Symptoms of Chordoma?

The symptoms of Chordoma are highly tied to where the tumor is located in the body. If it occurs where the skull and spine meet, symptoms like headaches, nosebleeds, and visual problems may follow.

If the tumor is located at the tailbone, bowel and bladder problems can surface, as well as nerve or muscle weakness in the back and limbs.

Regardless of location, pain and swelling are common.

 

How is Chordoma Diagnosed and Treated?

Chordoma is diagnosed through a combination of biopsy and MRI or CT Scan imaging, and then a treatment plan is generated to accommodate the age and health of the patient, development of the tumor, and location of the tumor.

Treatment generally involves one of or a combination of surgery and radiation therapy, with radiosurgery sometimes utilized if the tumor does not reside at the base of the skull.


While Chordoma may be a concerning diagnosis, treatment for these tumors has advanced rapidly over the past decade. Your team at Baylor Scott & White Greater Dallas Orthopaedics is here to provide insight, support, and innovative treatment strategies to equip you or your loved one to return to function promptly. Reach out to BSWGDO today to learn more.