Chordomas

This type of tumor develops from the remains of a spine-like structure that formed and then dissolved while the patient was a developing fetus.

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Symptoms

General symptoms are a result of growing pressure inside the skull.

Symptoms of Chordomas include headache, vomiting and mental status changes. Symptoms such as drowsiness, lethargy, obtuseness, personality changes, disordered conduct and impaired mental faculties show up early in about one out of every four patients with malignant brain tumors.

In young children, the growing pressure inside the skull may enlarge the head. Changes - such as swelling - may be observed in the back of the eye where the blind spot is.

Usually there are no changes in temperature, blood pressure or pulse or respiratory rates except just before death.

Symptoms that focus on specific functions or parts of the brain happen when the tumor destroys or presses on nerves or the brain, or if it affects glands. These symptoms will vary depend on where the tumor is located. Sometimes the nature of seizures can help locate where the tumor is located.

Causes and Risk Factors

This is a form of congenital brain tumor. These tumors most commonly occur in people in their 20s and 30s.

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Diagnosis

A neurologist -- a doctor who has received special additional training in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the brain, spinal cord and nerves -- will do a complete examination and neurological evaluation.

He or she may also request that a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan be done or a computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan be done as well as chest X-rays to check whether the tumor has spread from another part of the body. An MRI usually finds low-grade astrocytomas earlier than CT. Cerebral angiography is rarely used to diagnose a brain tumor, but may be done before surgery.

Depending on the patient's symptoms, specialized tests may be done. These include tests of the field of vision, the sharpness of vision and hearing.

If the results of other tests aren't conclusive, an examination of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord may be done. This is usually unnecessary.

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Treatments

Treatment of a brain tumor depends on the nature of the tumor, how rapidly it is growing, what symptoms it causing and where it is located.

Chordomas are usually treated with a combination of surgery and radiation. 

While these tumors are often slow growing, they can spread or recur even after treatment.

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