- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
CHORDOMA ! A CANCER OF THE SPINE
CANCER COMES IN MANY FORMS
When I was diagnosed back in 2010 with a form of Cancer called Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, like many, I knew little or nothing about the disease we all call Cancer. Indeed, I confess to then not knowing that Cancer comes in many forms and types and is to all intents and purposes an umbrella term to cover a range of invasive diseases that share one common term. They are all essentially life threatening. From Breast Cancer to Prostate Cancer, from Pancreatic Cancer to Lung Cancer, the forms that beset human kind are long and require various forms of treatment to give the patient a fighting chance of recovery over the disease contracted.
Treatments ,often with Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy are often little less invasive than the disease itself. However, in many forms, and where possible the skill of the surgeon is often the method called upon to seek to deal with the problem. In some cases growths and tumours are in positions where the knife can be used to remove them but in all cases there is the risk that there can be a re-growth and a return to a life threatening state.
I indicate the above simply to underline the complexity of Cancer and the successful treatment of it, based on painstaking research and dedicated work from the medical profession. Much of research relies on finance generated by dedicated Charities specifically set up to aid progress in a variety of ways. In my own case, the LYMPHOMA ASSOCIATION aids research and patients as do many other Charities associated with the drive to eradicateCancer completely one day.
Plans to overcome the disease have to face the many forms it takes and thus it is a long road that has yet to be travelled. Indeed, some forms of the disease are very rare and thus, when diagnosed the patient has very little chance of seeking out further information about their problem beyond that which their Oncologist can advise.
Recently a new Charity was founded to raise funds and awareness of a form of Cancer that I had never heard of before, just like the Charity founder herself, when she was diagnosed with CHORDOMA in 2007.
Imagine if you will,being told you have this form of Cancer and seeking further details from the internet about it, only to draw a huge blank ! In 2007 that is what happened to the lady who has now founded the Charity for it.
CHORDOMA, A CANCER OF THE SPINE.
Medical terminology identifies this Cancer as " originating from notochordal cells formed in the spine in a developing foetus". Around a third of the population maintain these tiny embryonic cells in the spine and it is from these, that current knowledge thinks that Chordoma develops. Even so, at this time no reason why this happens is known. Around 1 in every 800,000 people are affected. A small chance of getting it but if you are an unlucky one, the downside is that most GP"s will never even have heard of it. In the UK around 500 people currently suffer from Chordoma.
Symptoms can often mimic a slipped disk initially, causing severe and intense back pain. Subsequent allied symptoms are backache generally, neck pains, headaches and distorted vision. These symptoms are often misleading to GP"s and thus often there is no referral to a Neurosurgeon in initial and developing stages. If such a referral is happily made, then normal diagnostic proceedures such as biopsy and, scans take place as they do in more well known cases of Cancers.
Even so, diagnosis can take time and when it has been, there is no easy route to recovery. CHORDOMA it transpires is jelly like in texture and like ordinary jelly is difficult to remove completely as well as being located near the spinal cord making surgery a difficult task to perform without causing serious damage to the cord. To add to the problem, if just a tiny bit is left behind, it will grow again to relace that removed.
In the case that I read about, it took a 13 hour operation during which the tumourous jelly and a diseased vertebra were removed. The latter causing the need for the patient to be fitted with a Titanium cage that was fixed to the next vertebra. Subsequent to recovery from the surgery, the patient then underwent radiotherapy and also physiotherapy.Despite all this, the patient later learned that further scans showed the cancer had returned near the base of her spine.
This terrible news was met with fortitude and a further 5 operations endured. Even after this marathon treatment a further relapse occured and more radiotherapy needed. At the time of writing this, this patient awaits further scan results but is not remaining passive.
She has set up the Charity, CHORDOMA UK to raise funds and awareness. She is keen to see advances made in dealing with this cancer. The gene called brachyury, identified in other forms of cancers ,is identified as the basis of the disease and research is centred on "silencing" this gene as that stops tumour growth.
GETTING TO THE CORE.
The above story relating to the determination of one afflicted woman, highlights the good the bad and the downright ugly of our world efforts to eliminate Cancers. The good is the indefatigable human spirit that drives on people to make a difference whether they be professionals in laboratories, or like this patient an individual struck down by a form of the disease but determined not to give in lightly.
She demonstates again the power of holding a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE, whilst also thinking beyond her own predicament and seeking ways of helping others. The downright ugly is, of course, the disease itself, a many headed Hydra, the to date refuses to be cut down despite all efforts. However, the combination of public funding and charitable efforts worldwide, such as outlined here, exemplify the good in himan spirit that must, surely, one day lead to victory.
If, like me, you had never heard of CHORDOMA before, take a minute to reflect that it is probably not the only form of Cancer that you were not aware of. Such is the scale of the battle faced in a war that mankind must win and at all costs.