Cancerous Tumor of the cartilage cells is called chondrosarcoma. It usually affects the backbone first and then spreads to other parts of the body.
Chondro = cartilage, sarcoma = cancerous tumor.
Cartilages are rubber-padding like tissue. It covers and protects ends of long bones. Cartilage is softer than bones, but stiffer than muscle tissue. Body parts like ear lobes, noses, disc like padding in between the spinal bones (vertebral discs) are made with cartilage. Abnormal growth of the cartilage tissue leads to chondrosarcoma.
Chondrosarcoma affects people from all age groups. Chondrosarcoma is seen more often in the bones of the axial skeleton (head, ribs, spine, etc.). This disease may have a genetic component.
If this disease is identified during early stage (i.e. when it is still localized) and if it also happens to be of low grade, chances of survival after an appropriate treatment is very good.
Complication of Chondrosarcoma
This disease causes pain, limitation of movement and sensation. In some of the people affected by it, it can lead to death.
Symptoms of Chondrosarcoma
Symptoms of chondrosarcoma depend upon the size and location of the tumor. However, few general symptoms include:
- Back pain, increasing upon lying down
- Tingling sensation and pain radiating to the legs
- Limited movement because of the tumor
- Swelling at the site of tumor growth
Diagnosing a Chondrosarcoma
These are the standard tools used for diagnosing chondrosarcoma:
An X-Ray image shows the area of the bone destruction because of cancer.
- CT Imaging
Since CT provides an image with better resolution, it is used to assess the spred of the tumor more accurately. While ordering a CT scan, it is advisable to image the lungs as this disease has high chances of spreading to the lungs.
- MRI Imaging
Involvement of the nerves and blood vessels can be better visualized with an MRI image. If this tumor is located in the spine, an MRI imaging is mandatory before the treatment is commenced.
- Needle Biopsy
A needle can be inserted into the tumor. A tiny bit of tumor cells is sucked in by the needle and observed under the microscope. This can help in identifying the exact type of tumor.
Treatment for Chondrosarcoma
Here are the standard treatments for chondrosarcoma:
Complete Surgical Excision: In this procedure the tumor, along with some areas of surrounding normal tissue, is scraped off. This is the treatment of choice for chondrosarcoma.
Cryosurgery: Sometimes, ever after tumor excision, some tumor boundaries are left behind. In such cases, controlled cold produced by nitrogen gas is used to destroy the abnormal tissue.
Spine Stabilization Surgery: When chondrosarcoma is taken out of an affected spine, the rest of the spine must be stabilized using implants, fastened to the vertebral columns with screws.
Go here for more details on each of these procedures:
- Complete Surgical Excision of Spinal Tumor
- Spine Stabilization Surgery
Conventional radiation therapy is not very effective to treat this type of cancer. However, proton beam therapy, where a narrow proton beam is used to destroy the cancerous tissue, seem to be showing promises.
Chondrosarcoma doesn’t respond to medication, including the chemotherapy drugs.
But doctors do administer pain relievers to temporarily alleviate the patient’s pain.
Since surgery produces best results with this type of cancers, it is always advised to start the treatment started while the tumor volume is small and localized.