Sacral Chordoma

What is sacral chordoma?

Sacral chordomas are slow-growing tumors that usually respond well to surgery but are often diagnosed late. These type of tumors are rare and even though they are slow growing they are aggressive and can be life threatening. People diagnosed with this form of cancer can have a wide variety of different responses to treatment. So, what are sacral chordoma treatments?

How the tumors respond is based mostly on the type of treatment and the condition of the tumors themselves. Effective treatment has the ability to prolong patient survival and can even have the ability to cure. General symptoms of this disorder include pain and discomfort when sitting, although there can be quite a few others. Only one in one million people are diagnosed with sacral chordomas per year, making this a fairly rare disorder. The disorder is caused by mutations, both genetic and otherwise.


Most of those who suffer from sacral chordomas report lower back pain, soreness, pain in the legs, weakness, numbness in the lower back, and discomfort when sitting. Unfortunately, the symptoms can also become more involved. This disorder can cause abnormalities in the bladder resulting in loss of both bladder control and bowel control.

Sacral chordomas are usually diagnosed late, often after symptoms have started to surface. The methods for diagnosis often include a biopsy as well as some form of imaging.


The imaging methods are usually CT/CAT, MRI and PET Scanning. Unfortunately, because sacral chordomas are low grade, they can be diagnosed as benign. However, they attack other tissue, metastasize, and return after being removed, all the signs of malignant tumors. A benign diagnosis is usually incorrect.

Unfortunately, sacral chordomas go undetected for long periods of time because they grow slowly. Research is being conducted to determine other ways of detecting this often life-threatening cancer.


Sacral chordomas can occur based on a genetic mutation or as a result of a non-hereditary mutation. However, incidences of the development of hereditary mutations are rare. Fifty percent of all chordomas occur in the sacral area. Treatment for sacral chordomas can produce varying results and are largely dependent on the scope and size of the tumors and the treatment used.

For the most part, surgery is the most common path of treatment. There is usually an attempt made to surgically remove the tumors. Some treatments employ the use of both surgery and radiation to prevent the tumors from growing back.

Outcomes & survival

Half of all chordomas occur in the sacral region and they tend to be aggressive malignant tumors which can be life threatening. The prognosis for those diagnosed with sacral chordomas is poor but recent developments in both imaging and surgery have made it possible for surgeons to be more effective at removal of the tumors during surgery. Surgeons focus on removing only the tumor without damaging nerves or causing harm to any other healthy surrounding tissue. Efforts are being made to diagnose these forms of tumors during earlier stages so that outcomes are better.

Sacral chordomas are rare tumors that grow in the sacral area of the body. Because they grow slowly, they are often detected and diagnosed during later stages, which can present challenges when it comes to treating them. Sacral chordomas utilize surgery as the most common form of treatment. Through surgery, the tumors are removed and radiation is used as a way of preventing regrowth under some circumstances. These tumors are low grade and can sometimes be mistaken for benign, but because the tumors are aggressive, spread, and even resurface sometimes, they are more accurately considered malignant.

These tumors can develop as a result of genetic mutations, but this is rare. Most mutations are non-genetic. Early diagnosis is a true challenge because a lack of symptoms keeps most people in the dark about this condition. However, when symptoms do begin to surface most people generally experience discomfort when sitting, along with many others.

Symptoms can even be severe enough to affect both the bladder and bowels. Incontinence can result, just as a loss of control over bowel movements can result. Although rare, sacral chordomas have led to more research on better methods to detect this disorder much earlier.

Last Reviewed:
August 17, 2017
Last Updated:
October 19, 2017
Content Source: