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A sarcoma is a form of cancer that develops in connective tissues or bone. There are many sub-types of sarcomas, with the two major categories being soft-tissue sarcomas and bone sarcomas. The major forms of soft-tissue sarcomas are formed in muscles, blood vessels, tendons, fat, and nerves in the arms and legs. Bone sarcomas most often occur in the legs, especially around the knee. There are many forms of bone cancers, but not all bone cancers are sarcomas.


  • Sarcomas account for about 1 percent of adult cancers and about 15 percent of childhood cancers.
  • In the U.S., about 11,280 new cases of soft-tissue sarcoma are expected to be diagnosed in 2012, resulting in approximately 3,900 deaths.
  • There are approximately 800 new cases of bone sarcoma in the U.S. every year.
  • Of the new cases of bone sarcoma, about half occur in children and teenagers.

Risk Factors 

There are no concrete reasons for developing sarcomas, but certain risk factors have been identified based on common characteristics in individuals who developed the disease, including:

  • High doses of radiation exposure from treatments for other cancers; however, radiation treatment techniques have improved to ensure the targeted area is treated more precisely so effects on surrounding tissues and organs are minimized.
  • Individuals exposed to certain herbicides and preservatives have a higher risk.
  • Individuals with certain inherited diseases, such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome or von Recklinghausen’s disease, have an increased risk of developing a soft-tissue sarcoma.
  • Damage to a person’s lymph system, which can occur through surgery or radiation therapy, is also a risk factor associated with soft-tissue sarcoma.

Signs and Symptoms 

In the early stages, it can be difficult to determine if a sarcoma is present and can go undetected for a long period of time. Suspicious lumps or swollen areas of the body should be evaluated by a physician, who may conduct a biopsy to determine if the lump is a malignant tumor or benign. Over time, tumors will grow, become sore, and eventually cause pain because the tumor presses against nerves or muscles.

Tips for Prevention 

There are no known ways to prevent the development of a bone or soft-tissue sarcoma. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting regular check-ups are the best ways to reduce the risk for developing all forms of cancer.

Treatment Options 

Once a sarcoma is diagnosed, the treatment plan will be based on type, location, stage of the cancer, and the patient’s overall health. Depending on the cancer’s location, as well as its stage of development, surgery is usually recommended. Normal surrounding tissue is usually removed to reduce the risk of the tumor spreading to adjacent areas. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy may also be used to reduce the chances the tumor will recur.

Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, Sarcoma Foundation of America