What Is Sarcoma?
Sarcomas are cancers that arise from the cells that hold the body together. These could be cells related to muscles, nerves, bones, fat, tendons, cartilage, or other forms of “connective tissues.” Sarcoma is a rare cancer in adults (1% of all adult cancers), but more prevalent in children (about 20% of all childhood cancers). Two main types of sarcoma are soft tissue and bone tumors.
Sarcomas are cancer tumors that involve connective tissue. They can invade surrounding tissue and can metastasize (spread) to other organs of the body, forming secondary tumors.
How Is Sarcoma Diagnosed?
In order to determine if a tumor is benign or malignant, a surgical biopsy must be performed. Therefore, all soft tissue and bone lumps that persist or grow should be biopsied. Ideally, biopsies should be performed at a specialty center for sarcomas.
If you have a noticeable and unusual lump that isn’t going away, talk to your doctor immediately.
Treatment options for sarcomas include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. A treatment plan specific to your cancer will be determined by your care team, which may include a clinical trial.
Surgery: the most common treatment for sarcomas. If possible, the doctor may remove the cancer and a safe margin of the healthy tissue around it.
Radiation: (treatment with high-dose x-rays) either used before surgery to decrease tumors or after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may be left behind.
Chemotherapy: used with radiation therapy either before or after surgery to try to shrink the tumor or kill any remaining cancer cells. If the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, chemotherapy may be used to decrease tumors and reduce the pain and discomfort they cause.
Immunotherapy: restores the body’s own complex immune and defense mechanisms to recognize and destroy cancer cells.
Clinical Trial: research studies that explore a new treatment option.
Sarcoma Risk Factors
Researchers continue to explore causes of sarcoma.
Certain risk factors can increase your chances of developing soft tissue sarcoma. These include:
- Genetic disorders
- Past radiation therapy
- Pre-existing conditions in bone and soft tissue
- Exposure to certain chemicals
Your Sarcoma Care Team May Include:
- Surgical oncologists
- Radiation oncologists
- Medical oncologists
- Sarcoma researchers
- Genomic experts
- Nurse navigators
- and more