Discussing Cartilage Tumors in Bone - Mayo Clinic
Chondrosarcoma: Bone Cancer of the Cartilage
With early diagnosis, the outlook is good for people with chondrosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that affects cartilage.
By Dennis Thompson Jr.
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Chondrosarcoma accounts for about a quarter of all bone cancers, which makes it the second most common type of bone cancer. It invades the cartilage, the connective tissue that prevents bones from grinding against one another and forms parts of the body like the nose and the ears.
Chondrosarcoma can occur anywhere in the body where there is cartilage. However, it most often attacks the cartilage cells of the thigh bone, arm, pelvis, knee, or spine. Other places where this type of bone cancer sometimes occurs include the larynx, trachea, chest wall, ribs, shoulder blade, or skull.
People under age 20 rarely have chondrosarcoma. It is most common in people between the ages of 50 and 70.
Chondrosarcoma begins with a single abnormal cartilage cell that starts dividing out of control. No one is certain what exactly prompts chondrosarcoma, although it is suspected that genetic abnormalities or damaged chromosomes might have something to do with it. The reason for this suspicion is that chondrosarcoma sometimes occurs in people with inherited diseases like Ollier's disease or Maffuci's syndrome, which are types of benign cartilage tumors that usually affect the hands.
Some researchers believe there also is a link between chondrosarcoma and repeated trauma to the site of the bone cancer, but it's not clear whether the injury makes the cancer more likely or the cancer makes the site weaker and more susceptible to injury.
Some symptoms of chondrosarcoma include:
- Sharp or dull pain where the tumor is located. The pain usually is worse at night, and will become more constant as the bone cancer grows. The pain may increase with exercise, physical activity, or heavy lifting.
- Swelling or redness at the tumor site.
- A large lump at the site.
- Limping or decreased use of the affected limb.
Diagnosis of chondrosarcoma involves a several step process that may include:
- Imaging studies of the suspected tumor:These include X-ray, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and CT (computed tomography) scans. Possible areas where the bone cancer might have spread will also be examined.
- Blood tests:These would include a complete blood cell count s and analysis of hormones and other blood chemistry that could indicate the presence of cancer.
- Biopsy:Here, a small tissue sample is removed to be examined under a microscope. This test provides definitive proof of cancer and also allows doctors to distinguish chondrosarcoma from other bone cancers.
Once chondrosarcoma has been diagnosed, there are several options available for treatment, including:
- Bone cancer surgeryis the main form of treatment for chondrosarcoma. If the tumor is in a limb, doctors will try to remove it without removing the limb. However, amputation may be necessary.
- Radiation therapycould be used after surgery to kill off any remaining cancer cells.
- Bone cancer chemotherapyis rarely used to treat chondrosarcoma. However, it may be used if the bone cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
If chondrosarcoma is caught before it has spread, patients have a five-year survival rate of 90 percent. However, if the bone cancer has spread to other organs or is more aggressive, the survival rate drops to 43 percent or lower.
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