Guidelines for newly diagnosed skull base tumors
Your first treatments will have a big impact on both your quality of life after treatment and the chances of the tumor coming back. In most cases, surgery is recommended as the first treatment for The bones at the bottom part of the skull that separate the brain from other structures. The clivus is one of the bones of the skull base. tumors. Radiation therapy is generally recommended after surgery to kill any remaining tumor cells, and a radiation oncologist should be part of your care team even before surgery to plan with your surgeons for any radiation treatment you will receive after surgery.
The goal of surgery for skull base tumors is All visible tumor has been removed, but not necessarily in one piece., or complete removal of all visible tumor tissue, whenever possible. Your doctors will need to do some additional tests before you have surgery. Even if you have already had A type of imaging scan that is used to help diagnose chordoma and can also be used to help guide the needle during a biopsy. They are also referred to as CT scans or “CAT” scans. or A type of imaging scan that is used initially to help diagnose chordoma, as well as during follow up to check for recurrence or metastasis. scans, you may need more extensive imaging. This will help your surgeon see the tumor better and plan your surgery.
A type of imaging test called An imaging test that is done before surgery to show the location of important blood vessels. should also be done. This test shows the location of blood vessels that need to be protected during surgery. You will also need an examination that measures the following:
- cranial nerve function
- visual acuity (how sharp your vision is)
- visual field
- pituitary gland function
Completing this examination prior to surgery will allow your doctors to know what has changed if you experience side effects.
Surgery should be performed in a medical center with substantial experience in skull base surgery. Your surgeons should be trained in both Use of an instrument to look inside the body. Most skull base chordoma surgeries are done endoscopically through the nose. endonasal (through the nose) and transoral (through the mouth) approaches, as well as through the side of the head. Skull base operations are usually done by a team that includes a neurosurgeon and an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon. ENT surgeons are also called otolaryngologists.
To help you find the best care possible we have organized a list of chordoma experts you can search by specialty, location, and key terms.
Surgery in the skull base can cause damage to the The brainstem is the lower part of the brain connected to the spinal cord. The brainstem relays all signals to and from the brain and the body and is responsible for maintaining consciousness, breathing, and heartbeat. and cranial nerves, which control important functions such as speech and swallowing. To reduce the risk of serious nerve injury, The use of devices during surgery to monitor the functioning of neural structures such as the spinal cord, nerves, and brain. This is done to guide the surgeon during the operation, and to reduce the risk of damage to the patient’s nervous system. is recommended during surgery.
Because chordomas in the skull base often touch important nerves and blood vessels, it is not always possible to remove the tumor in one piece or with wide margins. For this reason, even if all visible tumor is removed, microscopic chordoma cells are likely to be left behind after surgery.
Read more about The healthy tissue surrounding the tumor that is taken out along with the tumor to make sure that no cancer cells are left behind. Negative or wide margins mean no tumor cells can be detected in the healthy tissue, which lowers the chance of recurrence. »
Therefore, radiation therapy is generally recommended after surgery to prevent any remaining cells from re-growing. If the entire tumor cannot be removed, your surgeon should remove as much of the tumor as possible, especially from around the brainstem and The nerve responsible for eyesight by sending signals from the eye to the brain., so that later radiation therapy can be more effective.
What to expect after surgery
Each patient’s recovery after surgery will differ. Pain is common, so a pain management specialist should be part of your care team.
It is important to have a detailed discussion with your radiation oncologist to understand the type of radiation therapy that is best for you and the short-term and long-term side effects of the treatment you can expect.
The most important thing to know about radiation is that high doses are required to control chordoma. Specifically, a dose of at least 74 The abbreviation for gray equivalents, which refers to the unit of measurement for an absorbed dose of radiation. is recommended. This dose should be given to any visible tumor as well as any areas where your doctors believe there may be microscopic tumor remaining after surgery. Even if the tumor was completely removed there could still be microscopic tumor cells nearby, and these can grow into tumors if they are not radiated. If an During surgery, removal of the entire tumor in one piece without cutting it into smaller pieces. is achieved the dose of radiation to the areas surrounding where the tumor was can be limited to 70 GyE.
The amount of radiation required to treat chordoma is higher than what healthy tissue can handle. For this reason, the radiation dose must be focused on the tumor while avoiding important nearby structures such as the brain, brainstem, nerves, or spinal cord. Radiation that is highly focused is called Types of radiation that can focus the beam of radiation very accurately on the tumor while minimizing the amount of radiation that reaches the surrounding healthy tissue.. Your radiation oncologist should plan radiation therapy to deliver the necessary dose to the tumor without causing harm to surrounding tissues.
Types of radiation
A type of Radiation that is delivered from outside the body. called A type of external beam radiation that uses beams of protons, neutrons, or positive ions for the treatment of cancer. is generally recommended for treating chordoma because it can be focused most precisely. Two different types of particles are commonly used: protons and carbon ions. It is not known whether there is any difference in effectiveness between A type of particle therapy that uses beams of protons to kill cancer cells. and A type of particle therapy that uses beams of charged carbon ions to kill cancer cells. Carbon ion therapy can deliver high doses of radiation to a tumor while sparing surrounding normal tissue..
In some cases, highly focused A type of external beam radiation that uses x-rays to kill cancer cells. radiation can be a suitable alternative to particle therapy as long as a high enough dose can be delivered to the target area without damaging healthy tissue. Sometimes it may be helpful to combine photon radiation and particle therapy. For all types of external beam radiation, imaging is needed every day of treatment to make sure that the radiation is going to exactly the right place. This technique is called The use of frequent imaging, such as MRI or CT, during radiation treatments to help direct the radiation to the right place..
Another method of delivering radiation, called A type of radiation therapy in which a small amount of radioactive material is placed inside the body to kill cancer cells., involves inserting a small amount of radioactive material inside the body during surgery. This method is used infrequently, but can sometimes be helpful for delivering a high enough dose of radiation to the area near the brainstem or spinal cord. When it is used, it is usually given in combination with external beam radiation.
What matters most about radiation is that a high enough dose is delivered to the area that needs it while delivering a safe, lower dose to important nearby structures. Whether the right dose can be delivered with a particular type of radiation depends on a number of factors, including the shape of the area being radiated and the location of important structures that must be avoided. In general, the more precisely the radiation can be focused (the more conformal it is) the better.
What to expect during radiation
Side effects from radiation are possible and can vary depending on where your tumor is located. Your radiation oncologist will help get you ready for treatment by preparing your treatment plan and discussing possible side effects.
Consider palliative care
Palliative care, also called Care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease., can improve the quality of life and well-being of patients dealing with a serious illness by preventing and treating symptoms of the disease or the side effects of its treatment. Palliative care is often confused with A specific type of supportive care that is provided to patients who are near the end of life and have stopped treatments meant to cure or control their disease. The main goal is to help patients feel as comfortable as possible, and to support both patients and family members through the end of life process. If a treatment option becomes available, patients can be taken out of hospice care and receive that treatment. care or end of life care, but they are not the same. Hospice care is intended for the end of life period, generally for patients expected to live for less than six months, while palliative care is recommended for patients at any stage of a life-threatening or chronic illness.
Chordoma experts recommend that palliative care be included in all chordoma patients’ care plans from the time of diagnosis, through all stages of treatment, as well as after treatment ends. No matter what treatment you have for your Tumor that has grown back after initial treatment. Recurrences can be isolated or multifocal, local or regional., palliative care can help address pain, mobility and functional issues, mental and emotional health, nutrition, and many other concerns to help you live well while managing your chordoma.
The information on this page was developed by the Chordoma Foundation in consultation with members of the Chordoma Global Consensus Group. We would like to thank the members of the Chordoma Global Consensus Group for providing their expertise in the development of the original consensus guidelines and their review of this educational content.
The information provided herein is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your or your loved one’s physician about any questions you have regarding your or your loved one’s medical care. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.