Chordoma is a type of bone cancer that belongs to the sarcoma family. This rare cancer affects only one in a million people, which is why it is very difficult to find true expertise in its management. Stanford is one of very few Skull Base Centers with true expertise and innovation in Chordoma treatment worldwide.
Chordomas arise from remnants of notochord, which precedes the spinal column during embryonic development. What causes notochord cells to become cancerous in some people is still not fully known, but researchers are actively working to find the answer. There are no known environmental, dietary, or lifestyle risk factors for chordoma. The vast majority of chordomas occur at random and not as a direct result of an inherited genetic trait.
About 50% occur in the sacrum, the bone at the base of the spine, about 30% occur in the skull base, the area behind the eyes and nose that slopes down to form the “floor” of the skull, and the rest are found along the spine.
A chordoma tumor usually grows slowly, often without symptoms at first, and then might cause symptoms for years before doctors find it. They are difficult tumors to treat due to their deep location and potential involvement of critical neurovascular structures such as the brainstem, spinal cord, optic and oculomotor nerves and carotid arteries.