Chondrosarcoma is a very common malignant bone cancer that forms in chondroplasts, or cartilage cells. Chondrosarcoma can grow and spread quickly or very slowly and is often seen in the shoulder girdle, pelvis, hip, and long bones.
Chondrosarcomas have different types and different grades. For instance, secondary chondrosarcoma is a tumor that originates from a preexisting lesion and is often related to other illnesses, like Ollier disease. There are three different histologic grades for these tumors, and the higher the grade, the more likely the tumor will metastasize.
The cause of this condition isn’t known, but if a person has benign bone tumors, like chondroma, they may have an increased risk of chondrosarcoma. Other conditions, such as Wilms’ tumor, Paget’s disease, Maffucci syndrome, Rothmund-Thomson syndrome, and the like can increase the chances of chondrosarcoma. Those who have been treated for cancer before with chemotherapy or radiation therapy may also have an increased risk. Lastly, while these tumors can be seen in younger people, they usually develop after the age of forty.
The main symptom of chondrosarcoma is pain by the tumor that gets progressively worse. Sometimes, a swollen area or lump will form on the skin near the cancerous area. Symptoms like stiffness, numbness, decreased blood flow, tenderness, and cold hands and feet can occur as well. Because the underlying bone structure is weakened, it is possible for nerves and blood vessels to become compressed and for bones to fracture.
Doctors and researchers do not know precisely what causes chondrosarcomas. They believe there are some genetic or chromosomal ties to the condition that makes some people more likely to develop them. In some cases, chondrosarcomas have occurred after an individual has received radiation therapy as part of their treatment for other types of cancer.
There are some medical conditions that may be risk factors for chondrosarcomas.
Some doctors are starting to notice a connection between chondrosarcomas and injuries to the area of the body affected by the tumors. They do not know for sure there is a connection, but are looking into whether the trauma that created the injury also causes chondrosarcomas to happen or just brings attention to the affected area long enough for doctors to detect them.
Middle-aged and older adults are more likely to be affected by some forms of this condition, while others are more common in teenagers and young adults. Ethnicity plays no role, but men are slightly more prone to developing it than women.
Chondrosarcomas do not always respond well to radiation therapy or chemotherapy, a wide surgical excision is often preferred. If the cancer has metastasized—like in the skull—then proton radiation therapy is also an option.
A limb salvage procedure is also an option. During the procedure, the doctor replaces the diseased bone with functional implants or with a bone graft. Amputation is usually only considered when all other treatments have failed.
There is currently no way known to prevent chondrosarcomas from occurring. Early detection and treatment is key to minimizing the effects this condition can have on the body and potentially preventing the recurrence of chondrosarcomas. Individuals with a family history of chondrosarcomas or medical issues that can result in the condition should speak with their doctor about the risk of it affecting them. If the risk is high, they should also discuss a plan for screening and testing to detect the condition earlier.
Reducing your overall risk of developing cancer by exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking are a good idea whether you are at risk of chondrosarcomas or not. You should also seek treatment immediately in case of injuries.