From OHC, Specialists in the Treatment of Adult Cancers and Blood Disorders
July 28, 2021
Sarcoma is often referred to as the “forgotten cancer,” most likely because it comprises less than one percent of all adult cancers. During this Sarcoma Awareness Month, OHC’s cancer experts believe it is important to bring awareness to this life-threatening disease so that individuals know what symptoms to look for and discuss anything unusual with their healthcare providers. As with most cancers, early detection typically leads to more positive outcomes.
Sarcoma is cancer of the connective tissue—cells that connect or support other kinds of tissue in the body. It is divided into two groups. The most common type, soft tissue sarcoma, usually develops in the muscles or blood vessels. The other type, bone sarcoma, develops in the bone. More than half of those diagnosed with sarcoma are under the age of 60 and sarcomas make up a larger percentage of cancers in children than in adults.
Arriving at a sarcoma diagnosis can be a challenge because its symptoms are usually vague. Oftentimes, patients report pain or swelling and tenderness if a tumor is in or near a joint. This can cause difficulty with normal movement. Others present with fatigue, fever, weight loss, anemia, abdominal pain or lumps, and/or blood in vomit or stool. In early stages, sarcomas rarely display symptoms outside of a painless lump, and unfortunately the condition goes undiagnosed. It is critical that individuals remember to have regular check-ups and report any unusual lumps or swelling. Those with risk factors should be closely monitored. Remember, an early diagnosis is associated with a much better prognosis as treatment can be more effective.
While more research needs to be done to better understand how sarcoma develops and spreads, we do know that certain hereditary conditions as well as exposure to radiation and some harmful chemicals increases one’s risk for sarcoma. According to the American Cancer Society, the average time between radiation treatments and a sarcoma diagnosis is about 10 years. Fortunately, we do expect the number of cancers caused by radiation to decline because advancements in radiation therapy techniques allow us to more precisely target tumors while avoiding healthy surrounding tissue. We also know more about selecting the appropriate dose of radiation.
To diagnose sarcoma a physician must perform an incisional biopsy to remove part of the tumor and examine it. There are over 70 subtypes of sarcomas. CT and MRI imaging scans help to identify the specific type of sarcoma. Treatment depends upon several factors including the type, stage, and location of the cancer and the patient’s overall health. It can involve surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and/or targeted drug therapy, which uses medicines to attack characteristics in cells specific to sarcoma.
Because there are not any known preventative measures for sarcoma and we cannot screen for early detection of the disease, we encourage you to be aware of your body and engage in open communication with your doctor about concerning symptoms.Comments (0)