Chondrosarcoma Causes and Symptoms

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 originates elsewhere and spreads to the bone at a later stage. Chondrosarcoma accounts for approximately 15-20% of all primary bone sarcomas and affects approximately 600 Americans each year.

Most primary bone sarcomas affect younger adults whose bodies are still in the development stages, but chondrosarcoma is found more commonly 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.

Types of Chondrosarcoma

Chondrosarcoma can be divided 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 can usually 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.

Causes of Chondrosarcoma

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 continued 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’s Disease or Maffucci Syndrome.
  • Previous radiation – For patients who have been exposed to high doses of radiation, the risk of contracting this tumor increases.

Symptoms of Chondrosarcoma

The more severe the case of chondrosarcoma, the more distinct the symptoms will be. However, there are still some primary symptoms to watch for to determine if there is a possibility that you may have 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 in order to determine if you have chondrosarcoma and get the appropriate treatment.

The multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic experts at North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute's musculoskeletal oncology services in New York treats Chondrosarcoma as well as a broad range of conditions that affect the bones within the body.

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