Symptoms, causes, treatment and outlook


Chondrosarcoma is a group of bone cancers that start in the cartilage. Cartilage is connective tissue found in many parts of your body, such as in your joints where your bones meet.

On 1 in 200,000 in the United States, people develop chondrosarcoma every year.

Chondrosarcoma tends to grow slowly and usually has a good outlook, but aggressive forms can spread to distant organs, such as your liver. Catching the cancer before it spreads gives you the best chance of successful treatment.

Read on to learn more about chondrosarcoma, including symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Chondrosarcoma accounts for approximately 20 percent of all bone cancers and is the third most common bone cancer after myeloma and osteosarcoma.

This type of cancer grows in the hyaline cartilage that is found in many areas, such as in the internal cavity and at the ends of your long bones. It is classified as conventional or secondary chondrosarcoma depending on how it develops.

  • Conventional chondrosarcoma develops in normal bone and accounts for approximately 90 percent of all chondrosarcomas.
  • Secondary chondrosarcoma develops from pre-existing tumors called enchondromas or osteochondromas and accounts for 10% of all chondrosarcomas.

Chondrosarcoma is further classified as central if it develops in the cartilage that lines the central cavity of a bone, or peripheral if it develops on the outer surface. Conventional chondrosarcoma is almost always central.

Symptoms of chondrosarcoma depend on where the cancer is growing and how big it is. the The most common places that develop chondrosarcoma are your pelvis or the long bones of your arms and legs.

Symptoms can include:

  • a large bump on a bone
  • pain that gets progressively worse
  • pressure around the mass
  • swelling around the mass
  • joint stiffness
  • joint weakness or limited movement
  • bowel or bladder problems, if a tumor grows in your pelvis

Although rare, neurological symptoms can develop if cancer forms in your skull and causes pressure on your brain and cranial nerves. Double vision and headaches are the most reported symptoms.

It is not known exactly why chondrosarcoma develops, but it is thought that genetic factors may play a role. Certain atypical genetic characteristics have been detected in the DNA of certain chondrosarcomas on the chromosomes 9, 10, 13 and 17.

Risk factors for developing chondrosarcoma include:

  • Older age. Most people with chondrosarcoma are over the the age of 50 when they receive a diagnosis.
  • Sex. Men are slightly more likely to develop chondrosarcoma than women.
  • Benign bone tumors. Non-cancerous bone tumors called enchondromas and osteochondromas can sometimes turn into chondrosarcoma.
  • Multiple exostosis. Multiple exostosis is a genetic disease responsible for many non-cancerous osteochondromas. It is often caused by mutations in the genes EXT1 or EXT2.

If a doctor suspects you might have bone cancer, they’ll likely order imaging tests to look for a tumor. X-rays are often the first imaging test performed. If anything unusual shows up on your X-ray, your doctor may order other imaging tests, such as:

  • Computed tomography (CT). A scanner uses rotating x-rays and a computer to produce 3D images that provide more detail than a traditional x-ray.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI uses radio waves and magnets to create detailed images of your bones and other tissues. MRIs can help doctors see if cancer has spread into your soft tissues.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. During a PET scan, you receive a radioactive sugar tracer, usually by injection. The scan can then see where this tracer is to help identify cancer cells that are using sugar at a faster rate than healthy cells.

A biopsy is needed to confirm your diagnosis. A biopsy involves removing a small part of the tumor for laboratory analysis. A specialist will examine the tissue under a microscope to confirm your diagnosis.

They will also classify your cancer from level 1 to 3 depending on how quickly it is likely to spread based on its cellular characteristics.

Grade 1 chondrosarcoma is considered the least aggressive, while grade 3 is the most aggressive.

Surgery is the main treatment for chondrosarcoma. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are usually not effective for conventional chondrosarcoma.

If the cancer is low-grade, it can be treated with a technique called intralesional curettage, which involves shaving off the cancer cells without removing any bone.

Large tumors are usually treated with a surgical technique called wide en bloc excision, where the cancer and surrounding tissue are removed together. In a Case Study 2021the researchers describe the use of this technique to remove a chondrosarcoma tumor that weighed 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds).

If the cancer is very large and has grown into nerves or blood vessels, amputation of a limb may be necessary.

Radiotherapy is sometimes used to destroy cancer cells that may not have been completely removed after surgery. It is also sometimes used to treat recurrent chondrosarcoma.

Chemotherapy may be used if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body.

Most people with chondrosarcoma have a good outlook, but about 6 percent of people have cancer that has spread to distant organs at the time of diagnosis.

Low-grade cancers have good prospects with a 5-year survival rate of approximately 83 percent. High-grade cancers have a less favorable outlook. The 5-year survival is 53% for grades 2 and 3.

The difference in outlook is largely due to the risks of the cancer spreading to distant organs:

  • Grade 1 tumors have about a 10% chance of spreading.
  • Grade 2 tumors have a 10-50% chance of spreading.
  • Grade 3 tumors have a 50-70% chance of spreading.

The location of the chondrosarcoma also affects the outlook. Pelvic tumors tend to be the the most aggressive and are associated with the lowest survival rate.

Even if surgery is successful, chondrosarcoma often negatively affects a person’s quality of life and physical function. Your surgical team can give you an idea of ​​what to expect after treatment and how you can minimize your risk of complications.

Chondrosarcoma is a group of cancers that start in your cartilage. It most often occurs in your long bones or pelvis.

Most people who are diagnosed with chondrosarcoma have low-grade cancer that tends to grow slowly and has a good outlook.

It can be difficult to spot the symptoms of chondrosarcoma in the early stages, but it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any concerning symptoms, such as a bone lump or pain with no known cause.

Catching cancer before it spreads gives you the best chance of survival.


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