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What is chondrosarcoma?

Chondrosarcoma is a rare type of malignant tumor that begins in cartilage cells and spreads to the surrounding bone tissue. It is different from other more common bone cancers like osteosarcoma, which arise from bone cells.

Chondrosarcoma can appear in any part of the body where cartilage is present. It begins most often in the bones of the limbs and pelvis, particularly the hipbone and thighbone.

Chondrosarcoma has four grades, and the higher the grade, the more severe the tumor:

  • Grade I (low grade) tumors are less likely to grow and spread than Grade II (intermediate grade) or Grade III (high grade) tumors.
  • The fourth and most serious grade is called dedifferentiated chondrosarcoma.

How common is chondrosarcoma?

Bone tumors in general are uncommon, with 5,000 to 6,000 cases diagnosed each year, which is about 0.5% of all new cancers. Chondrosarcoma accounts for 25% to 40% of these bone tumors.

Chondrosarcoma occurs most often in people 20–60 years old. The disease is most common in adults older than 40.

What are the signs and symptoms of chondrosarcoma?

Symptoms of chondrosarcoma are generally limited to the affected area and include the following:

  • A bony lump or mass
  • Tenderness or stiffness
  • Pain or swelling, especially at night or at rest
  • Problems with movement or range of motion

Unlike other cancers, chondrosarcoma does not usually cause the person to feel sick or weak.

How is chondrosarcoma treated?

Surgery is the main and preferred treatment for chondrosarcoma, because the condition does not respond well to other cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation. Even so, radiation may be used to treat tumors that are not in areas that can be reached by surgery, such as the skull.

The main goal of surgery is complete tumor removal with a wide margin of healthy tissue left in place. If the tumor is on an arm or leg, the surgeon has to balance the need for wide margins with the desire to save the limb and avoid loss of function.

What are the survival rates for chondrosarcoma?

Survival rates are tied to tumor grade. Low-grade tumors have better prognoses and recur (come back) less often than higher-grade cases. Other survival factors include age, overall health and tumor location.

Among adults with chondrosarcoma, five-year survival rates are as follows:

  • 90% for low-grade (Grade I) tumors
  • 81% for intermediate-grade (Grade II) tumors
  • 29% for high-grade (Grade III) tumors

The survival rate for dedifferentiated chondrosarcoma is the poorest. Fewer than 10 percent of patients survive longer than one year.

Why choose St. Jude for your child’s chondrosarcoma treatment?

  • St. Jude is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children.
  • St. Jude has created more clinical trials for cancer than any other children’s hospital in the United States.
  • The nurse-to-patient ratio at St. Jude is unmatched— averaging 1:3 in hematology and oncology and 1:1 in the Intensive Care Unit.
  • St. Jude has been a pioneer in limb-sparing surgical techniques. Our surgeons continue to explore new limb-sparing techniques to improve survival and help children live normal lives after treatment.
  • Your child will have access to a close-knit team of specialists that includes: surgeons; doctors and nurses who treat this cancer; doctors who specialize in radiation therapy, in hormones (endocrinologists), and in diagnosis (pathologists); experts in diagnostic imaging and nuclear medicine; dietitians; speech therapists; rehabilitation specialists (physical therapists, occupational therapists); child life specialists; psychologists; Quality of Life team members; experts who help manage and minimize the long-term or late effects of treatment; researchers; scientists; and many others.
  • The medical team works closely with laboratory researchers to bring new treatments from the laboratory to the clinic.

The St. Jude website is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through this site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.