The five-year survival rate for chordoma is 75 percent if the patient has been treated with surgery, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This is true even though the tumor is dangerous and somewhat difficult to successfully treat.
Chordomas grow slowly, and they can appear anywhere on the spine, from the skull to the tailbone, explains the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. A chordoma found in the skull can produce headaches or visual disturbances, and one on a vertebra can cause symptoms similar to that of a slipped disk. This includes pain, numbness and tingling in a limb. If the tumor is in the tailbone, it can cause incontinence. Still, patients may wait a long time before they go to their doctors for a diagnosis.
Neither chemotherapy nor radiation alone work well with chordomas, states the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. These tumors are not even that easy to see on imaging tests, even though a doctor can see the damage they do to the patient's bones. The most effective treatment is surgery combined with radiation, if surgery can be performed. However, even a successful surgery may leave a patient somewhat impaired because the tumor and a margin of healthy tissue need to be removed. This normal tissue is often part of the spinal cord or brain.