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(A-Z listing includes diseases, conditions, tests and procedures)


Chondrosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that develops in cartilage cells. Cartilage is the specialized, gristly connective tissue from which most bones develop. Cartilage plays an important role in the growth process.

There are many different types of cartilage that are present throughout the body. Chondrosarcoma primarily affects the cartilage cells of the femur (thighbone), arm, pelvis or knee. Less often, this condition may affect other areas (e.g., the ribs).

Chondrosarcoma is the second most common type of primary bone cancer. A primary bone cancer is one that starts from bone. Primary bone tumors do not start in another organ and then spread to the bone. Chondrosarcoma rarely affects individuals under age 20. After age 20, the risk of developing this condition increases until about age 75, according to the American Cancer Society. The incidence between males and females is equal.

Causes of Chondrosarcoma

The exact cause of chondrosarcoma is unknown. There may be a genetic or chromosomal component that makes certain individuals more open to this type of malignancy. Chondrosarcomas have been observed as a late consequence of radiation therapy for other cancers. 

Chondrosarcoma Risk Factors

Most often, chondrosarcoma develops from normal cartilage cells. It may also stem from a preexisting benign (noncancerous) bone or cartilage tumor. The following is a list of some benign conditions that may be present when chondrosarcoma occurs:

  • Enchondromas: a type of benign bone tumor that develops from cartilage and usually affects the hands; it can also affect other areas

  • Multiple exostoses (osteochondromas): the presence of multiple osteochondromas (an overgrowth of cartilage and bone near the end of the growth plate

  • Ollier disease: a cluster of enchondromas (benign cartilage tumors that usually affect the hands)

  • Maffucci syndrome: a combination of multiple enchondromas and angiomas (benign tumors made up of blood vessels)

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Chondrosarcoma Symptoms

The symptoms of chondrosarcoma may vary, depending on the location of the tumor. It’s important to remember that each individual may experience symptoms differently. The following are the most common symptoms of chondrosarcoma:

  • Large mass on the affected bone

  • A feeling of pressure around the mass

  • Pain that increases gradually over time and is usually worse at night; while pain relief may be achieved by taking anti-inflammatory medicines (e.g., ibuprofen), the pain is not usually relieved through rest

  • Local swelling

Chondrosarcoma Diagnosis

In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for chondrosarcoma may include the following:

  • Biopsy. A procedure in which tissue samples are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope. This is done to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present.

  • X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to capture images of internal tissues, bones and organs on film.

  • Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan. This is an imaging test that uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the body. A CT scan shows details of the bones, muscles, fat and organs.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies and a computer to generate detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. An imaging test in which radioactive-tagged glucose (sugar) is injected into the bloodstream. Tissues that use the glucose more than normal tissues (such as tumors) can be detected by a scanning machine. 

Chondrosarcoma Treatment

Specific treatment for chondrosarcoma will be determined by your health care provider based on the following:

  • Your age, overall health and medical history

  • The type, stage (extent) and location of the cancer 

  • Your tolerance to specific medicines, procedures, and therapies

  • The expectation for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

The goal of chondrosarcoma treatment is to remove the mass and reduce the likelihood that it will return. Close follow-up care with your doctor may be necessary. Your treatment plan may include the following:

  • Surgery. This is performed toremove the tumor. If the tumor is on an arm or leg, the surgeon will try to save the limb. In some cases, amputation might be needed. 

  • Physical therapy. This treatment helps the patient to regain strength and mobility of the affected area after surgery.

  • Radiation therapy. Radiation might be given at high doses.

  • Chemotherapy. Although not used as the primary treatment, chemo may be needed if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.

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