Chondrosarcoma can be defined as a rare type of bone cancer wherein the proliferation of the cancer cells happens in the cartilage; the tough, flexible material that cushions the bones and joints. This type of bone cancer is commonly found in the upper arm bone, thigh bone, shoulders, ribs, pelvis and in rare cases even in the nerves, muscles, and other soft tissue of your arms and legs.
Sometimes, the chondrosarcoma is slow-growing in nature and can be treated by complete removal of the tumour via surgery, whereas the fast-growing ones can be extremely aggravating in nature and can pose a high risk of metastasis and spread to distant tissues and organs.
Chondrosarcoma can be of several types depending upon the type of cell they are affecting or how they look under the microscope. These include:
- Conventional chondrosarcoma
- Myxoid chondrosarcoma
- Mesenchymal chondrosarcoma
- Dedifferentiated chondrosarcoma
- Clear cell chondrosarcoma
Just like other forms of cancer, the exact cause of Chondrosarcoma is yet unknown. However, studies suggest that it usually happens when there are certain changes or mutation in the cellular material, i.e. the DNA, that invariably make the cells grow abnormally without dying and causing them to bundle up leading to tumorous growths. Some varieties of chondrosarcoma can also arise due to the transformation of benign cartilage lesions into cancers.
Certain causative factors that increase the risk of chondrosarcoma includes:
Age: Adults over the age of 40 are more at risk of chondrosarcoma.
Enchondromas: Enchondromas are benign tumours, i.e. they are not cancerous in nature. These chiefly happen due to conditions like Maffucci syndrome and Ollier disease and can sometimes undergo transformation to become chondrosarcoma.
Multiple Exostoses Syndrome: This condition gives rise to multiple small bumps on the bones which are made of cartilage and can sometimes increase the risk of chondrosarcoma.
Exposure To Radiation: Any kind of radiation treatment in the past owing to some cancerous condition can make someone more prone to chondrosarcoma.
Health Conditions: The risk of chondrosarcoma also increases in people already suffering from Paget’s disease or Wilm’s tumour.
Unlike other forms of cancer, it is quite difficult to understand the symptoms of chondrosarcoma, if the tumour is slow-growing. The symptoms usually crop up near the tumour. These include:
- Intense pain, stiffness and swelling around the tumour
- A large lump or palpable mass on the affected bone
- Fracture due to weakened bone
- Pressure around the tumour
- Problems in urinating if the tumour is near the pelvic area
- Limited movement if the tumour is in the arms or legs
Diagnosis And Treatment
If you notice any of the above-mentioned signs or symptoms, do consult a doctor right away to get diagnosed and treated at the earliest. The doctor usually does a thorough physical checkup to look for any lumps or masses on the bones, presses the area slightly to know if it pains, acknowledges the patients past medical history and conducts some diagnostics. These include:
- Imaging techniques including bone scan, CT-scan, MRI-scan, X-ray, and Ultrasound
To treat the condition effectively, the doctor usually grades the tumour to combat it with proper efficacy. It is usually graded into:
Low grade (I): When the tumour is slow-growing. These type of tumours can easily be treated with surgery since chances of remission is quite low.
Intermediate grade (II): This tumour grows and spreads more quickly than the Grade I type.
High grade (III): These are the fastest growing ones and can often spread to the lymphatic tissue and thereby to other tissue and organs.
Once the tumour is graded, it is treated accordingly. The available treatment options include:
- Radiation therapy