A sarcoma is a cancer of the connective tissues, such as nerves, muscles, and bones. Sarcomas can arise anywhere in the body and are frequently hidden deep in the limbs. They are often misdiagnosed and assumed to be sports injuries or benign bumps. Sarcomas are rare tumors, comprising less than 1% of adults’ cancers and nearly 15% of children’s cancers. They are best diagnosed and treated by a team of doctors with experience in all aspects of sarcoma care.
Though sarcomas can be aggressive and difficult to treat, many people survive sarcoma.
In the early stages of the disease, there may be no symptoms. Sarcoma may manifest as a painless lump or swelling anywhere in the body. Sarcoma can spread (metastasize) rapidly to the lungs and other parts of the body, making this a very dangerous cancer.
The cause of sarcoma is unknown. For a very small percentage there are some genetic factors.
Cancer research is based on some fundamental questions: How does a cancer start? And what does it need to survive? Researchers from the Kevin B. Jones Lab at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) set out to study a rare sarcoma. The answers they found to these questions may help redefine what’s possible in treating it.
How are Sarcomas Diagnosed?
A patient may see several doctors and have a variety of medical tests before sarcoma is suspected. The diagnosis of sarcoma is usually made with a biopsy, when a doctor removes a small part of the tumor for examination. The decisions involved in the biopsy approach can be complex and are best made by a sarcoma specialist.
After the biopsy, a pathologist looks at the tumor tissue under a microscope to make a diagnosis and to determine the tumor’s grade (which indicates how aggressive the tumor is). The determination of which sarcoma a patient is diagnosed with should be done by a skilled pathologist with extensive background in sarcoma pathology. Results of the biopsy and other tests are typically used to provide a disease stage (which indicates how advanced the disease is in the body).
How are Sarcomas Treated?
Sarcoma treatments vary by tumor type, grade and stage, but nearly all sarcomas are treated with surgery when it is possible.
The goal of surgery is to remove all disease from the affected area(s). Some low-grade tumors only require surgery, but many sarcomas are treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy in order to prevent or get rid of disease that spreads throughout the body. These treatments may be necessary before or after surgery.
The duration and intensity of sarcoma therapy can be surprising and disheartening to patients and their families, and coping with the side effects of treatments can be a challenge. Many patients and their families choose to join support groups, which can be a great source of information and strength.
Families can also seek counseling and support services at cancer centers and local charitable organizations.
There are over 65+ subtypes of sarcoma, all of which require different types of treatment.
Read more about Sarcoma
Rein in Sarcoma website provides an extended source of information about Soft Tissue Sarcoma, Bone Sarcomas, Raising awareness, Sarcoma research and more.
Access their their website at:
National Institutes of Health; National Cancer Institute
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