Chondrosarcoma | Tampa General Hospital


Chondrosarcoma is an uncommon type of bone tumor that forms in cartilage, the smooth connective tissue that protects the ends of bones. Most often, the cancer originates in the hip, pelvis or shoulder, although it can also occur in the knee, skull, spine, windpipe (trachea) or ribs.

Due to the rarity and complexity of chondrosarcoma, it is vital to seek care at a high-volume cancer center such as Tampa General Hospital’s Cancer Institute. The multidisciplinary team in our Sarcoma Center of Excellence has extensive expertise in diagnosing and treating all types of bone cancer, including chondrosarcoma. Recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 10% of hospitals in the United States, TGH has earned the prestigious “High Performing in Cancer” designation for 2023-24. We are also proud to be accredited by the Commission on Cancer (CoC).

Chondrosarcoma vs. Osteosarcoma

Another type of bone cancer, osteosarcoma develops in the cells that form bone tissue (osteoblasts). Unlike chondrosarcoma, which is usually diagnosed in patients older than 50, osteosarcoma mainly affects children and young adults whose bones are still growing. Though rare, chondrosarcoma is the second most common type of primary bone cancer in adults.

Chondrosarcoma Causes

The exact causes of chondrosarcoma are unknown. Through extensive research, scientists have determined that the cancer begins when healthy cartilage cells undergo harmful changes that damage their DNA. Normally, DNA ensures orderly cellular activity by providing precise instructions on when each cell should grow, replicate and die. Damaged DNA can provide garbled instructions that lead to uncontrolled cell growth. The abnormal cells then amass and form tumors. If left untreated, the cancerous cells can invade the surrounding healthy tissues and enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system, where they can circulate throughout the body and spread to distant organs and tissues.

Chondrosarcoma Symptoms

Because chondrosarcoma tends to grow slowly, an early-stage tumor may not cause noticeable symptoms. As the cancer progresses, it may begin to pressure the surrounding tissues and cause:

  • Worsening pain
  • Swelling
  • A lump that can be felt
  • Joint stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Bladder or bowel issues

Additionally, a skull base chondrosarcoma can cause headaches, dizziness, hearing loss, facial pain, numbness and/or difficulty swallowing.

Chondrosarcoma Diagnosis

If chondrosarcoma is suspected, a physician will typically perform a medical history review and physical examination, then order a series of diagnostic tests, which may include:

  • Blood work The microscopic analysis of a blood sample can provide important clues about the patient’s general health and organ function.
  • X-rays – Basic images of bones created with small doses of radiation can help the physician determine if more detailed imaging is needed.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans – X-rays taken from several different angles are combined by a computer to create three-dimensional images of various bones, muscles, organs and fatty tissues.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans – Powerful magnets, radio waves and a computer are used to create detailed images of certain internal organs and structures.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans – Before this nuclear medicine imaging test is performed, radioactive-tagged glucose is administered intravenously, which can highlight any cells that are utilizing excess glucose (such as cancer cells) in the resulting images.
  • Biopsy – A small sample of the suspicious tissue is removed (either with a needle or via surgery) for microscopic evaluation by a pathologist, who can identify cancerous cells and confirm the diagnosis.

Chondrosarcoma Treatment

When possible, the main form of treatment for chondrosarcoma is surgery to remove the tumor along with a slim margin of surrounding healthy tissue. If the cancer is slow-growing and located in an arm or leg, a surgeon may scrape the tumor away from the bone and then apply a chemical or cold gas to help destroy any remaining cancer cells. If needed, the bone may be repaired with a graft or special cement.

To address a more extensive tumor, a surgeon may cut away a portion of the affected bone. If the cancer is in an arm or leg, limb-preserving surgery may be an alternative to removing the entire limb. Other treatment options include radiation therapy, chemotherapy and clinical trials.

When diagnosed at a localized stage — before the cancer has spread to nearby tissues or metastasized to distant organs — the five-year chondrosarcoma survival rate is 91%.

Benefit From World-Class Care at TGH

TGH’s Sarcoma Center of Excellence is one of the largest and most experienced sarcoma practices in Florida. Skilled in dozens of distinct medical specialties, our team members work closely together to ensure personalized care and a successful recovery for each patient. If you would like to talk with an expert on our team, contact us at (813) 844-4151 to request an appointment.