A sarcoma is a rare type of cancer in adults, and a more prevalent cancer in children that can occur in different parts of the body. It is a term for cancers that begin in the bones or the connective tissues that connect, surround and support our body, including muscles, tendons, fat, blood vessels, nerves and the lining of the joints. Sarcoma can rise anywhere as these tissues are present all over the body. There are over 70 types of sarcoma. The treatment varies depending on the location, type and other factors. (WebMD)
Symptoms of Sarcoma
The most frequent location for sarcoma is limbs as they have the most connective tissues. They are hidden deep in the body and are often diagnosed only once are they are too large to be cured. As they are hard to spot, the first symptom generally is a painless lump. If the lump grows bigger, it might make you uncomfortable or give trouble as it presses against nerves or give you trouble breathing. Other symptoms that might look out for are bone pain, abdominal pain, weight loss or a broken bone unexpectedly, without any injury. (Mayo Clinic 2020)
Risk Factors of Sarcoma
The causes of sarcoma are unknown. Cancer develops when changes occur in the DNA within the body cells. The DNA inside cells is packaged into individual genes that contain a set of instructions to help the cell perform. Mutation might tell cells to grow and divide uncontrollably and to continue living, which would lead to the accumulation of abnormal cells that could form a tumor. (Mayo Clinic 2020)
You also raise the risk of developing sarcoma if other people in your family have had sarcoma, if you have a bone disease called Paget’s disease, if you have genetic disorders such as neurofibromatosis, Gardner syndrome, retinoblastoma or Li-Fraumeni syndrome, or if you have been exposed to radiation. (WebMD)
Treatment of Sarcoma
The treatment of your sarcoma depends on the location as well as other factors like how developed it is, whether it has spread to other parts of your body or metastasized. Different treatments used to cure sarcoma are:
- Surgery: Surgery involved cutting open your body and taking out the whole tumor from your body. Depending on how severe the sarcoma is, it is possible that only the cancer cells are removed or the whole limb can be removed too.
- Radiation: Radiation is often used to shrink the tumor before surgery or to kill the cancer cells that are remaining after surgery. If surgery is not an option, radiation could be the main treatment too. Chemotherapy drugs are often used with or instead of surgery and it is generally the first treatment after cancer spreads.
- Targeted Therapies: Targeted therapies are a relatively new treatment that uses drugs or man made antibodies from the immunity system to block the growth of cancer cells and leave the normal cells undamaged.
Sarcoma is about 20% curable by surgery and about 50-55% curable by surgery with chemotherapy and/or radiation. More than 50,000 patients and families are dealing with sarcoma at any time. Nearly 7000 people die from sarcoma every year in the United States and more than 16,000 new cases are detected. (Sarcoma Foundation, 2020)
Sarcoma is considered a ‘forgotten cancer’. Encouraging research and development of new drug therapies is essential, but is overlooked due to a general lack of awareness and knowledge. July is Sarcoma Awareness Month and The Sarcoma Foundation of America raises awareness and aim to bring more attention to this deadly disease along with highlighting the challenges of the sarcoma patients and their families. Spread awareness about sarcoma and learn more about Sarcoma Awareness Month by visiting https://www.curesarcoma.org.
“Sarcoma Symptoms, Types, Causes, Treatments.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/cancer/sarcoma.
“Sarcoma.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 5 Dec. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sarcoma/symptoms-causses/syc-20351048.
“Patient Resources- What Is Sarcoma? Treatments & More.” Sarcoma Foundation of America, 22 May 2020, www.curesarcoma.org/patient-resources/.