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What Is a Chondrosarcoma?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2014
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A chondrosarcoma is a cancer which arises in cartilage cells. Such cancers are quite rare, and primarily seen in adults. Occasionally an adolescent will develop chondrosarcoma. This cancer usually requires a team of doctors including an oncologist and an orthopedic surgeon for treatment. Treatment tends to be more available in urban areas, as in rural areas, doctors may see this cancer rarely, if at all, and thus not be very familiar with treatment.

Chondrosarcomas happen when cartilage cells run amok. Primary tumors arise in the cartilage itself, while secondary tumors may develop from benign growths of the cartilage and bone. People with a history of such growths are therefore at risk for chondrosarcoma, and must be monitored carefully for the early signs of a malignant growth. Beyond this, there are no clear risk factors for the development of this cancer, although it may be influenced by genetics, environment, and a variety of other factors.

This cancer is commonly found around the ends of the long bones such as the femur. Patients may be able to feel a mass which indicates the location of the tumor, and they can experience intermittent pain which may last for years before the tumor is diagnosed. Diagnosis requires medical imaging studies of the area involved, along with biopsies which can be used to find out which types of cells are involved, and to stage the tumor. A pathology analysis is important because it will provide information which can shape the course of treatment.

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One serious example of chondrosarcoma is undifferentiated chondrosarcoma, which is usually fatal. Other examples include mesenchymal and clear cell forms. The earlier the tumor is found, the better the prognosis for the patient, with the best treatment being complete surgical resection of the tumor. Tumors in some sites may also be treated with radiation to confirm that the entire tumor has been eradicated.

If chondrosarcoma metastasizes to other areas of the body, chemotherapy and radiation may be used in an attempt to control the spread of the cancer. Patients with chondrosarcoma which has spread may want to consult their doctors about treatment options and the prognosis. With some forms, treatment may not add that much time to the patient's life, and it may cause intense pain and suffering without any clear benefit. In other cases, chemotherapy and radiation will be unpleasant, but the patient has a better chance of recovering, making the experience more worthwhile.

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