This information has been written for patients, their families and friends and the general public to help them understand more about a form of primary bone cancer known as chondrosarcoma. This page will detail what chondrosarcoma is and how chondrosarcoma is diagnosed and treated.

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What is chondrosarcoma?

Sarcomas are cancers that start in connective tissue, which are the body parts that have a supporting role in the body. The bones, cartilage, muscle and blood are all types of connective tissue.

Chondrosarcoma is a rare cancer that most often forms in the bone, but can also very rarely appear in the soft tissue.

Chondrosarcoma is the most common primary bone cancer in adulthood, and the second most common primary bone cancer overall. It makes up around 25% of all malignant bone cancer cases. The tumour is made of cells that produce cartilage.

Chondrosarcoma can develop in any part of the body but the most common sites are the:

  • pelvis
  • rib cage
  • arms (upper arm or humerus)
  • shoulder blades
  • legs (proximal femur in the thigh and the tibia in the shin).

Chondrosarcomas can also be found in the spine or skull but this is extremely rare.

Also extremely rare is a type of chondrosarcoma called 'extraskeletal chondrosarcoma' which does not form in bone. Instead, it forms in the soft tissues of the upper part of the arms and legs. Chondrosarcomas that originate in internal organs have also been seen.

The majority of chondrosarcomas are slow growing and do not spread, but occasionally the cancer cells can spread (metastasise) away from the bone in which they start. The likelihood that chondrosarcoma will spread depends on the type of chondrosarcoma and the grade. If chondrosarcoma does spread from its site of origin, it usually spreads to the lungs.