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About Childhood Chondrosarcoma

  • Chondrosarcoma is a type of cancer that typically develops in the cartilage that coats the ends of bones and forms the joints. It also can occur inside the bone or on the surface of the bone.

    • Chondrosarcoma occurs primarily in adults, is rarely encountered during the adolescent years, and seldom affects young children.
    • It most commonly occurs in cartilage found in the femur (the large bone in the leg), humerus (upper arm bone), shoulder, ribs, and pelvis but can also occur in the head or neck.
    • Chondrosarcoma can grow rapidly as an invasive tumor, or it can develop slowly, causing less severe symptoms and sometimes never spreading.

    Our pediatric cancer program at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center offers the combined expertise of a leading cancer center and world-renowned children's hospital. Specialists in our Bone and Soft Tissues Treatment Program treat children with chondrosarcoma.

    Causes and Symptoms of Childhood Chondrosarcoma

    Several factors, including having Ollier's disease (multiple benign tumors within a bone) or a rare genetic disorder called Maffucci syndrome, may contribute to disease risk.

    Chondrosarcoma symptoms may include:

    • Pain (sharp or dull) at the tumor site
    • Swelling
    • Redness at the tumor site
    • Enlargement of pre-existing exostoses (bone growths)
    • Increased pain with activity or lifting
    • Limp
    • Decreased movement of the affected limb
    • Urinary obstruction (with pelvic tumors)

    How We Diagnose Childhood Chondrosarcoma

    A physician may order several different tests to diagnose chondrosarcoma. We may perform advanced imaging studies, biopsies, and lumbar punctures. After completing all necessary tests, our specialists will discuss the findings and determine the best treatment plan.

    How We Treat Childhood Chondrosarcoma

    We typically perform surgery as the first step in treatment. During surgery, doctors can make a complete diagnosis and determine the disease stage. Your child's treatment may also include:

    • Surgery: The surgery type will depend on the tumor's size and location and whether the cancer has spread. At Dana-Farber/Boston Children's, specialists perform these procedures in the hospital's state-of-the-art pediatric MR-OR. It allows specialists to take an MRI scan immediately following surgery to ensure the tumor is completely removed and decreases the need for additional surgery.

      • Limb-salvage surgery: This procedure helps preserve the limb by removing the chondrosarcoma tumor and healthy tissue around the tumor. The surgeon will try to maintain as much limb function as possible. After surgery, patients need to avoid high-stress physical activities, such as skiing and bike riding.

      • Amputation: An amputation may be necessary in rare cases, specifically, if the tumor involves the nerves and blood vessels. If amputation surgery is needed, we may fit your child for a prosthesis following surgery.

      • Rotationplasty: With this partial amputation, the surgeon preserves the cancer-free lower leg, attaches it to the thighbone, and uses the ankle as a knee joint.

      • Head or neck surgery: If the chondrosarcoma is in the head or neck, we will remove it with surgery and possibly do bone and skin grafts.

    • Radiation therapy: This treatment can help stop the abnormal cells' growth in specific areas of the body. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays from a specialized machine to damage or destroy abnormal cells. Our doctors use precisely targeted and dosed radiation to eliminate cancer cells left behind after your child's surgery.

    • Chemotherapy: These medicines can help stop the growth of abnormal cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning it is introduced to the bloodstream and travels throughout the body to destroy or slow targeted cells' growth. Different groups of chemotherapy drugs work in different ways. Patients can receive it in various ways, including orally or intravenously.

    Long-term Outcomes for Children with Chondrosarcoma

    The prognosis for children with chondrosarcoma depends on:

    • The extent of the disease
    • Size and location of the tumor
    • Presence or absence of metastasis
    • Tumor's response to therapy
    • Age and overall health of the child
    • Child's tolerance of specific medications, procedures, or therapies
    • New developments in treatment

    Every child is unique, and we determine treatment and prognosis to your child's needs. Prompt medical attention and aggressive therapy are essential for the best prognosis.

    Children treated for chondrosarcoma should visit our pediatric cancer survivorship program every year to manage disease complications, screen for early recurrence of cancer, and manage late effects of treatment.

    Childhood Chondrosarcoma Treatment Team

    In addition to meeting with your pediatric oncologists, your child may see one of our endocrinologists, cardiologists, neurologists, neuropsychologists, and complementary therapy specialists.

    See a complete list of the specialists in our Childhood Solid Tumor Center.