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UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Comprehensive Skull Base Program provides exceptional treatment for rare and complex skull base disorders such as chordomas, combining a multidisciplinary approach with the latest techniques and technology. 

Patients with a chordoma have access to a world-class neurological surgery center, a state-of-the-art neuro intensive care unit, and coordinated cancer care at the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute-designated center in North Texas.

Innovative Techniques for Optimal Treatment

Chordomas are rare malignant tumors that develop from the cellular remnants of the notochord, an embryologic structure in the head. These tumors occur most commonly in middle-aged patients. 

Approximately one-third of chordomas arise at the skull base in a region called the clivus – a critical location in the center of the skull bordering major blood vessels, optic nerves, and the brainstem. 

Specialists at UT Southwestern take a team approach to treating chordomas, applying the latest in image guidance and microsurgical techniques to preserve quality of life for each patient.

Symptoms of Chordomas

Chordomas are slow-growing tumors. As they grow, they put pressure on nearby areas of the brain and spinal cord, causing symptoms such as:

  • Facial numbness
  • Severe headaches
  • Vision changes 


UT Southwestern physicians diagnose chordomas using imaging studies, such as:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scans can show a mass at the central skull base with surrounding bony destruction.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help the physician understand the tumor’s relationship to the adjacent structures.

Treatments for Chordoma

Surgical removal of these tumors is the main treatment strategy. These surgeries can be challenging, given the aggressive nature of chordomas and their proximity to vital structures. 

UT Southwestern physicians work together to determine the best approach for each patient. Minimally invasive endoscopic approaches are used whenever possible to optimize success rates and minimize complications and recovery time. In some cases, radiotherapy is also recommended.

Research and Clinical Trials

Patients also benefit from the leading research conducted at UT Southwestern, which often includes clinical trials offered at few other centers in the country and which helps speed better treatment to patients. 

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