Chondroblastoma

Chondroblastoma is a rare, non-cancerous tumor that forms on the joint end of bones, commonly on the thigh, upper arm and shin. Chondroblastoma forms in children and young adults and is curable with surgery to remove the tumor.

Overview

What is chondroblastoma?

Chondroblastoma, also called a calcifying giant cell tumor or Codman tumor is a rare, non-cancerous tumor made up of a mass of cartilage tissue. The tumor forms when your cells grow and divide more than they should or don’t die when they should (neoplasm). Chondroblastoma forms on the joint end of long bones near the growth plate and is most often found on your thigh (femur), upper arm (humerus) and shin (tibia).

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Who does chondroblastoma affect?

Chondroblastomas occur in children, with 25% of cases diagnosed in children under 10 years of age. The majority of cases (nearly 75%) occur in adolescents between the ages 11 and 25. Chondroblastomas are more common in men than women.

How common are chondroblastomas?

Chondroblastomas are rare and account for less than 1% of all bone tumors.

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Is a chondroblastoma tumor cancer?

No. Chondroblastomas are benign, meaning that it's a non-cancerous tumor. Removing the tumor with surgery alleviates pain as well as any bone damage.

What is the difference between chondroblastoma and enchondroma?

While both are types of non-cancerous tumors, the main difference between chondroblastomas and enchondromas is the location. You can find chondroblastomas on the long bones near the joint. Enchondromas form inside of the bone cartilage and are most commonly found in the hand. Enchondromas rarely cause pain and often remain undiagnosed unless an unrelated injury or condition requires an x-ray of the affected area.

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Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of chondroblastoma?

Symptoms of chondroblastoma appear gradually over time and slowly increase in severity. Symptoms include:

  • Joint pain (discomfort that ranges from a mild ache to severe burning or a sharp sensation).
  • Tenderness on or near long bones in your body.
  • Fluid in or around your joint that causes swelling (joint effusion).
  • Muscle weakness near the tumor (muscle atrophy), which could cause a limp if located in your leg bones.

What causes chondroblastoma?

The cause of chondroblastoma is unknown. Studies suggest that chondroblastoma originates from the cartilage in growth plates located at the ends of your bones near your joints.

Can chondroblastoma spread to other parts of your body?

There is a chance that aggressive chondroblastomas can spread to your lungs (metastasize). Chondroblastoma is still considered non-cancerous, even if it spreads to your lungs.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is chondroblastoma diagnosed?

There are three steps to diagnosing chondroblastomas. First, a healthcare provider gives you a physical examination and asks you questions about the pain you’re experiencing. These questions include:

  • How long have you been experiencing pain?
  • Where is the pain?
  • Does your pain go away with rest?
  • Has your pain increased in severity over time?

After a physical examination, your healthcare provider performs one of three imaging tests:

To confirm your diagnosis, your healthcare provider will do a biopsy to examine a sample of the tumor tissue. For the biopsy, you are put under anesthesia and your surgeon will remove a small sample of the tumor tissue.

Management and Treatment

How is chondroblastoma treated?

After diagnosis, your healthcare provider schedules surgery to remove the tumor. Surgery is the most common treatment for chondroblastoma and is necessary to remove the tumor, stop the pain and prevent future bone damage.

If the bone is damaged, the surgeon will perform bone grafting after removing the tumor. Bone grafting replaces your damaged bone with healthy bone from another part of your body.

In some cases, surgery can’t safely remove the tumor due to its location and size. Your healthcare provider may recommend non-surgical treatment, including a treatment that heats and destroys the tumor with high-frequency electrical current (radiofrequency ablation) or a treatment that destroys the tumor using extreme cold from liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy).

What medications can I use to treat chondroblastoma?

Joint pain is the primary symptom of chondroblastoma. Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen relieve the pain. As the tumor grows, pain relievers are ineffective.

Do I need surgery to treat chondroblastoma?

Surgery is necessary to remove the tumor and alleviate any pain. If the tumor is left untreated, it could continue to grow. It has the potential to damage your bone and cause severe pain and difficulty moving the joint near the tumor.

What is the recovery like after surgery for chondroblastoma?

Depending on the size, location and damage that the chondroblastoma tumor caused to the bone, recovery time and rehabilitation may vary. Typically, you will stay at the hospital overnight after surgery for observation. You will experience some pain and discomfort during the first couple weeks after surgery as the wound heals, but you shouldn’t have symptoms of chondroblastoma. You can treat mild to moderate post-surgery pain with over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen.

If you have persistent pain after the surgery that is similar to the pain you experienced before surgery, the tumor likely returned. It is best to follow up with your healthcare provider regularly after surgery to make sure you are healing correctly.

What exercises can I do after chondroblastoma surgery?

Most post-surgery recovery involves gradually rebuilding joint function and improving muscle strength so you can get back to the activities you enjoy:

  • One week after surgery: Perform small exercises where no weight affects the surgical area.
  • Six weeks after surgery: Perform light, weight-bearing exercises.
  • Three months after surgery: Perform full, weight-bearing exercises but limit extreme physical activity.
  • Six months after surgery: You are fully recovered from surgery.

Will my chondroblastoma tumor return after surgery?

There is a 10% chance that the tumor could return after surgery within the first few months to years. After surgery, your healthcare provider will monitor the affected area regularly through X-rays and physical examinations. If the tumor reappears, another surgery may be needed.

Prevention

How can I reduce my risk of chondroblastoma?

Since the cause of chondroblastoma is unknown, there is no way to reduce your risk of developing chondroblastoma. Chondroblastoma symptoms go away with treatment to remove the tumor.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have chondroblastoma?

Your outlook after diagnosis and treatment depends on the location and size of your tumor. Generally, surgery eliminates your pain and discomfort. There is a 10% chance that the tumor will reappear after surgery. You may develop arthritis over time if the chondroblastoma damaged the cartilage that protects your joints.

What is the mortality rate for chondroblastoma?

Since chondroblastoma is a non-cancerous tumor that is curable with surgery, there is no mortality rate directly associated with the tumor.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

You should see your healthcare provider immediately if:

  • You experience severe pain or pain that won’t go away near your joints.
  • Joint pain returns after your tumor is removed.
  • The surgical site becomes painful, red, swollen and/or leaks pus or drainage (infection).

What questions should I ask my doctor?

  • How large is my chondroblastoma?
  • Can surgery safely remove my tumor?
  • How do I prevent infection at my surgical site?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Chondroblastoma is a non-cancerous tumor that causes pain, swelling and weakness in a joint. No one wants to be in pain, especially if it prevents you from living a normal life. Luckily, chondroblastomas are curable. Surgery should alleviate your discomfort and get you back to the activities that are important to you.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/16/2021.

Learn more about our editorial process.

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