Chordomas are rare tumors that occur in 1 out of 1 million people. They are malignant — potentially fatal — tumors that tend to grow slowly and spread to other parts of the body. Unfortunately, it still isn’t possible to predict how fast these tumors grow or whether they will spread.

Years ago, many physicians and researchers didn’t consider chordomas to be serious health threats because of their slow growth pattern. Chordomas, however, are cancerous, and treating them incorrectly can make them more likely to reoccur and spread. Chordomas tend to metastasize to the lung, but have also been known to spread to other bones and organs like the liver, brain and even heart.

A chordoma is one of the few tumors that can “seed” its cells to surrounding tissues. That means that if the tumor happens to be ruptured during surgery, tumor cells can spill into surrounding areas and grow uncontrolled. This is why choosing an experienced tumor surgeon is the most important decision a patient can make when facing a chordoma. A successful surgery is a patient’s best chance at a cure.