Sarcoma is a very rare form of cancer. It is also different from most types of cancer because it occurs and grows in connective tissue. The cancer cells grow in parts of the body that support or connect other types of tissue to the body. While the tumors can appear anywhere, they are most commonly found in the muscles, bones, cartilage, tendons, fat, and nerves. They are also seen in the blood vessels of the legs and the arms. There are over 50 types of sarcoma and they are divided into three categories, bone sarcoma, soft tissue sarcoma, and osteosarcoma.
Who Is At Risk Of Developing Sarcoma?
It is unknown exactly what causes sarcoma, however, there are certain risk factors that make it more likely for people to develop this type of cancer.
- Radiation exposure: If you had radiation to treat a previous cancer, you are more at risk.
- Family history: If a member of your family had sarcoma, your chances of getting it are higher.
- Genetic disorders: Certain genetic disorders such as retinoblastoma, neurofibromatosis, Gardner syndrome, or Li-Fraumeni syndrome put you at greater risk.
- Bone disorder: If you have the bone disease called Paget’s disease, you are at risk of developing sarcoma.
- Age: Children and young adults are more prone to developing an osteosarcoma.
What Are the Symptoms of Sarcoma?
In its early stages, sarcoma doesn’t show any symptoms. They can be hard to spot because they can grow anywhere in your body. If it is a soft tissue sarcoma, the first sign would be a painless lump. As it grows larger, it can press against the nerves or muscles causing pain. An osteosarcoma shows symptoms much earlier than the other types. There would be pain in the effected bone that comes and goes. Also, the pain is often worse at night. The area can also swell.
What Is the Treatment For Sarcoma?
How the cancer is treated would depend on the type, where it is located, and whether or not it has spread to other parts of the body. The most common treatments include:
- Surgery: A doctor can perform surgery and remove the tumor from the body. It is possible for the doctor to remove the cancer cells, therefore, there would be no need for the effected limb to be amputated. If all of the cells cannot be removed, amputation might be your only chance of survivial.
- Radiation: If surgery isn’t an option, radiation is used. It can also kill any cells left behind after another treatment.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is used either with surgery or if surgery isn’t possible. It is also used if the cancer has spread.
- Targeted therapies: This is a relatively new treatment and the doctors use man made antibodies from the immune system. They are placed to block the growth of cancer cells without damaging any of the normal cells.
What is the Survival Rate For Someone With Sarcoma?
In most cases, soft tissue sarcoma can be cured with one surgery. If it is an aggressive tumor and the cancer has spread, it can be harder to treat. With osteosarcoma, if the cancer has not spread the survival rate is between 60 and 80 percent. If the cancer can be completely removed with surgery, the chance of a full recovery is excellent. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, the treatment would need to be more aggressive and the chances of being cured completely are much lower.
Sarcoma is a rare and serious type of cancer. If it is caught early enough, the chances of survival are great.