Rare and cancerous (malignant) tumors that develop along the spine, chordomas grow relatively slowly and often spread to other parts of the body. Classified as to how aggressive they are and how fast they spread, a chondroid chordoma is the least aggressive; a classic chordoma slightly more aggressive than the chondroid type; and a dedifferentiated chordoma the most dangerous and fastest growing of all types.
Doctors are unsure of the exact cause of chordomas tumors. However, in general tumors are abnormal growths due to unnecessary cell multiplication that serves no proper function in the human body. Typically, cell multiplication is controlled by suppressor genes, which continually act to protect cells from cancer-causing genes known as oncogenes. However, when suppressor genes fail because of changes in their protein coding, tumor can develop as cell division becomes unregulated.
Whereas our body’s built-in defenses find and destroy these abnormal cells, naturally occurring chemicals sometimes hamper the ability of our immune system to see these cells, as which point they become strong enough and exist in large enough numbers to overpower any of body’s defenses.
Due to their slow-growing nature, symptoms of a chordomas tumor may not be felt until the tumor has developed significantly. Depending on the location, signs include headaches and problems with vision as well as spine pain at the tumor site where the nerves are being pressed. Additionally, if the tumor is in the lower back symptoms may include bowel and bladder problems.
Diagnoses of chordomas tumors are confirmed by imaging technologies (x-rays, CT scans and MRIs) and treated based on the location and severity of the tumor. Surgery is often necessary and recommended thanks to advances in technology, and radiation therapies also produce positive results.