What Is Chondrosarcoma?

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Chondrosarcoma is a cancer that develops in the cells of connective tissue called cartilage. It is considered a type of bone cancer. The bones in the body most affected by chondrosarcoma are the femur, pelvis, knee, spine, and the upper and lower arm bones.

This article discusses the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for people who develop chondrosarcoma.

Two doctors are diagnosing the symptoms of a patient from x-ray at hip bone.

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Types of Chondrosarcoma

The four main types of chondrosarcoma are:

  • Conventional: Conventional chondrosarcoma is the most common type and makes up roughly 75%–80% of all chondrosarcomas.
  • Clear cell: Clear cell chondrosarcoma forms at the end of a bone. Because it spreads slowly, if caught early, it is highly treatable through surgery.
  • Dedifferentiated: A dedifferentiated chondrosarcoma is an aggressive type of bone cancer that starts as a lower-grade form, with the cells changing over time. Roughly 11% of all chondrosarcoma is dedifferentiated.
  • Mesenchymal: Mesenchymal chondrosarcoma spreads aggressively from the original tumor site. It is extremely rare, and less than 1,000 documented cases have occurred.

How Common Is It?

Chondrosarcoma is the second most common type of bone cancer. Roughly 20% of all bone cancers are chondrosarcoma. 

Chondrosarcoma Symptoms

Symptoms will depend on the type of chondrosarcoma and the location in which it develops. Still, there are common symptoms that present with all types, such as:

  • A large mass that forms on the bone
  • A feeling of pressure in the area affected
  • A gradual increase in pain in the area that may be worse at night
  • Swelling in the area
  • Feeling weak or as if you have limited mobility in a specific joint or limb
  • Joint stiffness
  • Bowel and bladder issues can arise if the tumor is localized in the pelvis
Symptoms of Chondrosarcoma by Type
Conventional Mostly found in the lower extremity bones such as the femur, tibia, and bones of the feet
Pain and swelling in the affected area
Bone fractures
Neurological symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, or weakness
Clear Cell Found mostly in the femur but can develop in the chest, spine, and at the ends of long bones
Pain in the affected area
Increased risk of bone fractures
Dedifferentiated Mainly found in the pelvis, femur, and the bone that connects the elbow and shoulder
Pain in the affected area
Mass formation in the area
Mesenchymal Mainly located in the jaw, femur, spine, or ribs
Can also appear in soft tissue outside of the bone
Pain and swelling in the affected area
Nerve compression in the affected area

What All Types Have in Common

While the types vary in terms of where they develop and how dangerous they are, they all have one symptom in common: pain in the affected area.


Researchers aren’t clear on what causes chondrosarcoma, but they believe that there could be a genetic component at play in people who develop it.

In rare cases, chondrosarcoma can arise from radiation therapy given for another type of cancer.  

Chondrosarcoma Risk Factors

While the causes are not clearly outlined, there are some potential risk factors associated with the disease. These risk factors are due to other conditions that are often present when chondrosarcomas are diagnosed. They include:  

  • Other benign (noncancerous) bone tumors known as enchondromas (growths within bone cartilage)
  • Osteochondromas, which are cartilage and bone overgrowths near the end of the bone known as the growth plate
  • Ollier disease, which is a rare skeletal disorder characterized by enchondromas
  • Maffucci syndrome, which is a rare disorder characterized by enchondromas, skeletal deformities, and cutaneous lesions made up of abnormal blood vessels (angiomas)


Diagnosing all types of chondrosarcomas typically involves the same techniques. These include:

  • Biopsies to test samples of the bone and other tissue for cancer cells
  • X-ray to get a better look at the bone
  • CT (computed tomography) scans that use a series of X-rays to see bones, fat, muscles, and organs
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans that use magnets and specific radio frequencies to get a better look at organs and other bodily structures
  • PET (positron-emission tomography) scans use a type of radioactive tracer that's injected into the bloodstream designed to highlight specific areas of tissue, including tumors, that take on more of the glucose in the tracer

During the diagnostic process, your healthcare provider will conduct a physical exam, review your health history, and discuss symptoms you are experiencing.

Is It Difficult to Diagnose Chondrosarcoma?

In some cases, it can be hard to diagnose chondrosarcoma, especially the type that grows slowly. This is because it will often appear similar to other types of benign growths.


Treating chondrosarcoma may be difficult because research has shown that this type of cancer does not properly respond to chemotherapy or radiation therapy, both of which are first-line cancer treatments.

Several factors will also need to be taken into account when deciding on treatment, including sex, age, medical history, and the type and severity of your case.

Because the cancer is resistant to the current first-choice cancer treatment options, the best option is the removal of the tumor. This process involves making an incision in the area of the body where it grows and removing all of the affected cartilage or tissue that has cancer cells.

The only time radiotherapy or chemotherapy will be used is if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes or other organs.  

Chondrosarcoma and Amputation

In some cases, the entire bone must be removed, which results in complete amputation of the affected area and the limb that contains the cancer. However, surgeons will always do their best to save the affected limb whenever possible.


In cases that are caught early and haven’t metastasized (spread to other parts of the body), the five-year survival rate is as high as 75.2%.

Different factors come into play when predicting the survival rate of people with chondrosarcoma, such as the type, how quickly it spreads, how soon it is diagnosed and treated, and where in the body it is found.

Conventional Chondrosarcoma

Conventional chondrosarcoma has a high five-year survival rate of roughly 90% because of how slowly it spreads. It's thought that only roughly 1%–6% of all conventional chondrosarcomas spread throughout the body, making the prognosis more positive.

Clear Cell Chondrosarcoma

Clear cell chondrosarcoma can be easily treated. However, it is known for its ability to recur well after it was first treated. Because of this, it can be hard to beat. When it is caught early, the 10-year survival rate is roughly 89%.

Dedifferentiated Chondrosarcoma

Dedifferentiated chondrosarcoma has a poor prognosis because it has the ability to spread quickly to other areas of the body.

According to research, the five-year survival rate ranges from roughly 7% to 24%, with the overall five-year survival rate being around 18%.

The location of the tumor plays a role, and those who have one in their chest wall are more likely to survive as opposed to those who have tumors in other areas of the body. Larger tumors, especially those over 8 centimeters, are also associated with a higher mortality.

Mesenchymal Chondrosarcoma

Similar to other types of chondrosarcomas, mesenchymal chondrosarcoma can have a negative prognosis depending on several of the aforementioned factors. Generally, the overall five-year survival rate of this type of chondrosarcoma sits at roughly 51%.

In terms of location, tumors in the axial skeleton, which includes the bone, neck, back, and chest, tend to have the lowest rate of survival at 37%. 


Coping with cancer is a difficult process, especially if the prognosis is as low as it is with some types of chondrosarcoma. To cope with a new diagnosis, you can confide in friends or family members and ask for help dealing with the adjustments you’ll have to make because of your disease.

Professional counselors can also be a great help when you have been recently diagnosed. They can assist you in accepting and dealing with your new normal. To make sure you understand your situation and treatment path entirely, ask your healthcare team lots of questions and ask for clarification in areas that you are unsure of.

There are various resources available through the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute to help you cope with your diagnosis, treatment, and survival of the disease.

You can also seek out a support group to be among other people who are going through a similar experience.


Chondrosarcoma is a form of bone cancer that affects cartilage cells. The disease has four different types: conventional, clear cell, dedifferentiated, and mesenchymal chondrosarcoma. While each type presents similarly, there are some differences in where the cancer is located as well as how quickly it spreads throughout the body.

Healthcare providers diagnose chondrosarcoma by using various tools such as biopsies and imaging scans. Since typical cancer therapies like chemotherapy are ineffective, people with this cancer have to undergo tumor removal.

A Word From Verywell

Being diagnosed with cancer can feel as though your whole world has been turned upside down. Acceptance is often a difficult process. Fortunately, there are resources and support groups available to help you through it, and your healthcare team can help you develop the best treatment plan for your specific case.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the survival rate for chondrosarcoma?

    The survival rate varies depending on the type and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Overall, if caught early, the survival rate is as high as 75.2%. In some cases, such as with dedifferentiated chondrosarcoma, it can be as low as 7%.

  • What are the signs and symptoms of chondrosarcoma?

    There are several signs and symptoms of chondrosarcoma, although not all of them will be present. In general, the most common signs of this type of cancer are:

    • Feeling a large lump or mass on the bone
    • Feeling as though there is pressure around the mass on the bone
    • Pain in the area that tends to gradually worsen
    • Swelling in the affected area
  • Can chondrosarcoma be cured?

    There is no cure for any type of cancer, but it can be effectively treated. Treatment highly depends on where in the body the cancer has spread to after it develops. In the case of chondrosarcoma, complete removal of the tumor before it has the chance to spread gives someone the best outlook.

16 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Angelica Bottaro
Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.