Chondroma: Definition, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Usually when we hear the word ''tumor,'' we immediately think of cancer. However, a chondroma is a non-cancerous tumor that forms and is made up of mature cartilage. Read this lesson to learn what the symptoms are and how to treat them.

What is a Chondroma?

Have you ever heard of a chondroma before? These rare, very slow-growing tumors originate in the cartilaginous portions of a bone. They are non-cancerous (benign) tumors made up of mature cartilage. However, just because they are non-cancerous does not mean they are always harmless - in some cases they may cause distortion of the bone due to compression. In very rare cases, they may develop into cancerous tumors called chondrosarcomas.

Symptoms Common to Chondromas

Unfortunately, we do not know what causes chondromas to form in the first place. There are two types of chondromas: enchondroma and periosteal chondroma. An enchondroma grows within a bone and ultimately causes it to expand. A periosteal chondroma grows on the surface of a bone but is the rarer of the two types.

Enchondromas can be painful and lead to broken bones due to the extra pressure placed on the bone from the inside, though usually there are no symptoms. A periosteal chondroma can result in a dull pain with swelling, or it may have no symptoms at all.

An example of an enchondroma in a bone, depicted by the shaded area.

In children, chondromas are most commonly found in the hands and feet, though they may also be found in the thigh, upper arm, or ribs. Very rarely are symptoms produced in children, and they typically stop growing once the bones are fully grown. A chondroma is more likely to develop into a cancerous tumor when it is located in a central region within the body.

If the chondroma is found in the brain, it can lead to disruptions in vision. These disruptions occur when the chondroma presses down on nerves. Part of the reason chondromas are so hard to diagnose is because they are so slow-growing and can be present long before any symptoms occur.

Treatment Options

Identifying a chondroma is difficult due to their slow growth. Using imaging devices such as X-rays, MRI, CT, and bone scans are the most useful way to identify these growths. Once identified, observation and monitoring is often the preferred treatment option in children, unless the chondroma causes pain or fracturing.

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