Chondrosarcoma is a cancerous bone tumor that is part of the sarcoma family of cancers. Chondrosarcoma is a primary bone cancer, meaning it begins inside the bone, as opposed to secondary bone cancers that originate elsewhere and spread to the bone at a later stage. Chondrosarcoma accounts for approximately 15 to 20 percent of all primary bone sarcomas and affects approximately 600 Americans each year.
Some primary bone sarcomas affect young adults whose bodies are still in the development stages, but chondrosarcoma more commonly occurs in adults ranging from age 30 to 75. There is a slightly increased incidence of chondrosarcoma in males. This rare form of cancer most frequently affects the pelvis, femur or shoulder girdle.
While most chondrosarcomas have no identifiable cause, there are several risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing these tumors:
- Genetic pathways – Based on research, the highest probability for developing chondrosarcoma is through tumor suppressor genes. These genes are created through complex multi-step processes. These complications in genetics may form a pathway for the disease to develop.
- Osteochondroma – Rarely, the cartilage overlying a benign osteochondroma may transform to chondrosarcoma, resulting in pain or continuing its growth into adulthood.
- Enchondroma – In a very small percentage of patients, a chondrosarcoma can develop from a benign enchondroma, resulting in pain, growth or fracture. The risk is increased in the setting of Ollier disease or Maffucci syndrome.
- Previous radiation – For patients who have been exposed to high doses of radiation, the risk of contracting this tumor increases.
The more severe the case of chondrosarcoma, the more distinct the symptoms will be. However, there are some primary symptoms that may indicate the presence of this form of bone cancer.
The following are common chondrosarcoma symptoms. It is important to remember that everyone’s body is different and can react differently to the same disease:
- Localized pain at the site
- Tenderness at the site of the cancer
- Swelling around the area
- Localized mass
Chondrosarcoma symptoms may be mistaken for the symptoms of other medical conditions such as enchondroma or chondroblastoma. Make sure you consult a doctor to determine if you have chondrosarcoma, and get the appropriate treatment.
Chondrosarcoma can be assessed based upon various factors:
- Grade – Most malignant tumors are assigned a grade, based upon how aggressive the tumor appears under the microscope. A Grade I chondrosarcoma is the least likely to spread, and usually can be cured with local surgical management. Higher grade chondrosarcomas behave in a more malignant fashion, with potential for metastatic spread.
- Dedifferentiated – A small subset of low-grade chondrosarcomas can undergo a change within the tumor over time, developing into a high-grade sarcoma. These tumors are highly aggressive with a poor prognosis.
- Appearance – When looking under the microscope, a chondrosarcoma can be categorized by the appearance of the cells that comprise the tumor. These subtypes include classic, mesenchymal and clear cell chondrosarcomas.
The multidisciplinary team of musculoskeletal oncology experts at Northwell Health Orthopaedic Institute treats chondrosarcoma as well as a broad range of conditions that affect the bones.