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Sarcoma

Sarcomas are cancers of connective tissue. They fall into groups based on whether they arise in soft tissue or bone.

  • Soft tissue sarcomas can originate from cells of muscle, fat, nerve, fibrous tissue, deep skin tissue, or blood vessels. However, in many cases, the cell of origin is unknown. Soft tissue sarcomas most frequently are found in the arms or the legs but can occur anywhere in the body.
  • Sarcoma is more prevalent in children than adults. The most common types are osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and Ewing sarcoma. Osteosarcoma, a cancer of the part of the bone that gives bone its strength, is found most often in the bones around the knee. Ewing sarcoma most often occurs in the bones of the pelvis, chest wall, or the middle of long leg bones, but can also present in soft tissue.

These tumors are different from other “cancers of the bone” such as breast cancer, which spreads to bone, or multiple myeloma, which arises from blood cells in the bone marrow.

Statistics

  • Sarcomas account for about 1 percent of adult cancers and about 20 percent of childhood cancers.
  • In the U.S., about 13,190 new cases of soft tissue sarcoma are expected to be diagnosed in 2022, with approximately 5,130 deaths.
  • Approximately 3,910 new cases of bone and joint cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2022, with an estimated 2,100 deaths.

Risk Factors

There are no known 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 herbicides with high doses of phenoxyacetic acid and wood preservatives with chlorophenols have a higher risk.
  • Individuals with certain inherited diseases, including Li-Fraumeni syndrome, retinoblastoma, Paget’s disease of bone, multiple exostoses syndrome, Gardner syndrome, Werner syndrome, Gorlin syndrome, von Recklinghausen disease (neurofibromatosis), or tuberous sclerosis have an increased risk of developing a soft tissue or bone 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 may go undetected for a long period of time. Bone pain, 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 can grow, become sore, and eventually cause pain, bone fracturing, swelling, numbness, tingling, or weakness as 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, and the patient’s overall health. Depending on the cancer’s location, as well as its stage of development, surgery is an option for treatment. For a soft tissue sarcoma, tissue in distant sites is sometimes removed if the disease has spread to other areas. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy may also be used to shrink the tumor before surgery. Following surgery, patients may receive radiation therapy or chemotherapy to improve the chances of eliminating all tumor cells. Proton therapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and palliative medicine are treatment options.

Source: American Cancer Society, American Society of Clinical Oncology, and Sarcoma Foundation of America


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