Chondrosarcoma is a type of cancer that forms in the cartilage. It is the second most common type of primary bone cancer. Chondrosarcomas usually occurs in people between the ages of 40 and 70.
It is a slow-growing cancer that may not cause symptoms for months or even years. When chondrosarcoma symptoms occur, they may include a painless lump or mass, pain, and stiffness. Chondrosarcoma may also cause problems with movement if it grows large enough to press on.
Chondrosarcoma can occur anywhere in the skeleton, though most commonly found in the arms and legs' pelvis, ribs, or long bones. Chondrosarcoma that forms in the pelvis is sometimes called pelvic chordoma. Doctors sometimes refer to chondrosarcomas included in the ribs as chest wall chondrosarcomas.
There are three main chondrosarcoma types, each with unique characteristics:
1. Chondrosarcoma in situ (CIS)
CIS is the earliest stage of chondrosarcoma. In CIS, cancer cells are found only in the cartilage where they began and have not spread to nearby bone or tissue. CIS is also called low-grade chondrosarcoma.
Chondrosarcoma is a more advanced form of the disease. Cancer cells have spread from the cartilage to nearby bone or tissue in chondrosarcoma. Chondrosarcoma is also called high-grade chondrosarcoma.
3. Chondrosarcoma with dedifferentiation.
Dedifferentiation is when cancer cells in a high-grade chondrosarcoma change and take on characteristics of other types of cells, such as osteosarcoma or fibrosarcoma cells. This condition makes the tumor more aggressive and challenging to treat. Chondrosarcoma with dedifferentiation is also called undifferentiated sarcoma.
There are several risk factors for developing chondrosarcoma, including:
If a person has any of these risk factors, it does not mean they will develop chondrosarcoma. Many people with one or more risk factors never develop the disease. Conversely, some people who build chondrosarcoma may not have any known risk factors.
Chondrosarcoma symptoms may not appear until the tumor is large enough to press on nearby structures. When chondrosarcoma symptoms do occur, they may include:
Chondrosarcoma is a severe condition that requires prompt medical attention. If someone experiences these chondrosarcoma symptoms, they need to see their doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment of chondrosarcoma improve the chances of successful therapy.
Chondrosarcoma diagnosis may be difficult because they often do not cause symptoms until it's large enough to press on nearby structures. For this reason, it is essential to see a doctor if a person has any concerns about possible chondrosarcoma.
A doctor will likely order imaging tests, such as an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan, to help make a diagnosis. A biopsy may also be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Once the doctor makes a diagnosis, they stage the tumor to determine the best treatment plan.
Chondrosarcoma treatment depends on the stage of the disease. Treatment for chondrosarcoma may include:
Surgery is the most common treatment for chondrosarcoma. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue. This procedure removes the cancer and some healthy tissue around it. A limb-sparing surgery may also be an option. This type of surgery removes the tumor but spares as much of the limb as possible.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells.
Doctors may use it after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells and reduce the risk of recurrence. Radiation therapy also shrinks the tumor before surgery.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It is not often used to treat chondrosarcoma because it is ineffective at killing sarcoma cells. However, it may be used in some cases to shrink the tumor before surgery and make it more effective.
4. Clinical trials.
Clinical trials are research studies that test new cancer cell treatments. Participation in a clinical trial may be an option for people with chondrosarcoma.