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Unusual Cancers of Childhood (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Other Rare Unusual Cancers of Childhood


Treatment of Squamous Cell and Basal Cell Skin Cancer

Treatment for squamous cell and basal cell cancer is usually surgery to remove the tumor.

See the PDQ summary on adult Skin Cancer Treatment for more information.


Chordoma is a very rare type of bone tumor that forms anywhere along the spine from the base of the skull to the tailbone. In children and teenagers, chordomas develop more often in the base of the skull, making them hard to remove completely with surgery.

Childhood chordoma is linked to the condition tuberous sclerosis, a genetic disorder in which tumors that are benign (not cancer) form in the kidneys, brain, eyes, heart, lungs, and skin.


Chordoma may cause any of the following signs and symptoms. Check with your child's doctor if you see any of the following problems in your child:

  • Headache.
  • Neck or back pain.
  • Double vision.
  • Paralysis of the muscles in the face.
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness of the arms and legs.
  • A change in bowel or bladder habits.

Other conditions that are not chordoma may cause these same symptoms.

Chordomas may recur (come back), usually in the same place, but sometimes they recur in other areas of bone or in the lungs.


Treatment for chordoma in children is usually surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by radiation therapy. Proton beam radiation therapy may be used.

Cancer of Unknown Primary Site

Carcinoma of unknown primary is a rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the body but the place the cancer began is not known. Cancer can form in any tissue of the body. The primary cancer (the cancer that first formed) can spread to other parts of the body. This process is called metastasis. Cancer cells usually look like the cells in the type of tissue in which the cancer began. For example, breast cancer cells may spread to the lung. Because the cancer began in the breast, the cancer cells in the lung look like breast cancer cells.

Sometimes doctors find where the cancer has spread but cannot find where in the body the cancer first began to grow. This type of cancer is called a cancer of unknown primary or occult primary tumor.

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