Symptoms of Chondrosarcoma

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Chondrosarcoma is a type of cancer that starts in cartilage cells. Cartilage is the smooth connective tissue that protects the ends of bones and lines most joints.

This type of cancer mainly affects the cartilage cells of the thigh bone (femur), arm, pelvis, or knee. Symptoms of chondrosarcoma include pain, joint swelling, stiffness, and reduced movement.

This article explores the signs, symptoms, and complications of chondrosarcoma.

woman holding painful knee

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Frequent Symptoms

People with chondrosarcoma may experience the following symptoms or signs:

  • Pain: The earliest symptoms of chondrosarcoma tumors are pain and swelling where the tumor is located. The pain may come and go at first. It may get worse with movement, and there may be swelling in nearby soft tissue. The pain may continue while resting or at night.
  • Joint swelling and stiffness: A tumor that occurs near or in a joint may cause the joint to swell and become tender or stiff. This means a person may have a limited and painful range of movement.
  • Fracture: High-grade (faster-growing) chondrosarcoma tumors can weaken the bone, but most often the bones do not fracture (break). People with a fracture next to or through a chondrosarcoma tumor usually describe sudden severe pain in a bone that had been sore for a few months.
  • Limping: If a chondrosarcoma tumor causes a fracture (break) in a leg, it can lead to a pronounced limp. Limping is usually a symptom of later-stage chondrosarcoma.

Sometimes, people with this cancer do not have any of these changes, or the cause of their symptoms may be due to a different medical condition that is not cancer.

Pain, joint swelling, and limping could also be a result of an injury or accident. They rarely indicate that cancer is present.

Rare Symptoms

Mesenchymal chondrosarcoma is a rare type of cancer, accounting for 3% of all chondrosarcomas. It tends to affect adolescents and young adults.

This tumor typically arises in the pelvis, ribs, and jaw. Approximately one-third of cases occur outside of the bone, appearing as soft tissue masses. These can affect the muscle or central nervous system.

If a tumor grows large enough, it can compress nearby structures and cause additional symptoms. For example, a tumor that compresses the spinal cord can cause paralysis, while mesenchymal chondrosarcoma in the eye socket can cause pain, swelling, visual disturbances, and protrusion of the eyeball.

Complications

Approximately 22% to 32% of patients with chondrosarcoma develop metastasis, when the cancer spreads to another area. 

The rate of metastasis is related to tumor grade. If the tumor is high grade, it is more likely to spread to other areas of the body, most frequently in the lung and less so in the lymph nodes and the liver.

If chondrosarcoma has spread to the lungs, symptoms may include:

If chondrosarcoma has spread to the liver, it can cause different symptoms based on how much of the liver is involved. Some common symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Fever
  • Itchy skin
  • Yellowing of the whites of the eyes or skin (jaundice)
  • Bloated belly
  • Leg swelling
  • Pain in the upper right part of the abdomen (belly)

When to See a Doctor

Many of the common symptoms of chondrosarcoma, such as pain and swelling, tend to occur because of less serious conditions like sports injuries or arthritis. In addition, leg and arm pain are common in growing children, and there is often no cause for concern.

However, if the pain persists, intensifies, or if other symptoms are present, you should seek medical attention. While it’s highly unlikely that your symptoms are caused by cancer, it’s best to be sure by getting a proper diagnosis.

Summary

Chondrosarcoma mainly affects the cartilage cells of the thigh bone (femur), arm, pelvis, or knee. Symptoms of chondrosarcoma include pain, joint swelling, stiffness, and reduced movement.

A Word From Verywell

While pain, joint swelling, stiffness, and reduced movement could be the result of an injury or noncancerous condition, if you are worried, speak to your healthcare provider. They should be able to put your mind at ease with a physical examination and can order tests to rule out cancer.

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3 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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