Definition: A chordoma is a benign, slow-growing tumor that occurs at the base of the skull or in the spine. These tumors arise from cells present before birth that were supposed to develop into a part of the spinal cord. The World Health Organization does not assign a grade to chordomas.
Symptoms: Common symptoms of a chordoma at the base of the skull are headache and inability to move the eyes appropriately causing double vision. A chordoma in the spine can cause pain, numbness, tingling, weakness in the arms and legs, or urinary problems.
Evaluation: Chordomas are evaluated with CT or MRI scans. X-rays may be done to show the amount of bone affected by the tumor.
The preferred treatment of a chordoma is surgical removal of as much of the tumor as possible without causing significant neurological damage followed by radiation therapy to prevent recurrence.
Follow-up: Long-term close follow-up with regular MRI scans is recommended due to the high rate of recurrence of this type of tumor and the possibility of metastasis (spread) to other parts of the body.