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What is a Chondroma?

Chondromas are benign (noncancerous) tumors made of cartilage. Cartilage is the flexible, connective tissue that protects the ends of bones where they meet to form joints. Chondromas are often found in the small bones of the hands and feet but can also be found in the upper arm bone (humerus) and thigh bone (femur). 

Chondromas are classified according to where they are found on the bone: 

  • Periosteal chondroma develops on the surface of the bone, out of the periosteum, a strong membrane that covers bones. Periosteal chondromas occur in people of all ages though most often in those under 30 years of age. These chondromas grow slowly over months or even years. 
  • Soft tissue chondromas are not connected to bones at all. These chondromas most often form on tendons that attach muscles to bones. Soft tissue chondromas may also grow out of a joint capsule – the tissue that encloses a joint and provides stability. These chondromas most often develop in middle age. 

Symptoms of chondromas

In some cases, chondromas will cause swelling or a dull, aching pain. Some people can feel the tumor mass – approx 1-2 cm in diameter – in their fingers, hands, feet or toes. 

Causes of chondromas

The cause of periosteal chondromas and soft tissue chondromas is unknown. There are no known risk factors for these noncancerous tumors. 

Diagnosis of chondromas

During a physical examination, your doctor will look for tenderness over the bone, swelling and amass in the area of your symptoms. In order to accurately diagnose the type of chondroma or other type of tumor mass, your doctor will order imaging and/or tissue tests such as x-rays, CT scans, MRIs or a biopsy. 

Treatment for Chondromas

Both types of chondromas can be surgically removed with an excision. In this procedure, you will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tumor. The doctor will then make a small cut in your skin and cut the tumor out. These tumors rarely return after removal and no additional treatment is necessary.