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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.
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.
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