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Frequently Asked Questions

Many of our most frequently asked questions and answers can provide you with more detailed information about sarcomas and orthopaedic cancers.



    Q: What is a sarcoma?

    A sarcoma is a form of cancer that develops in connective tissues or bone. There are two major categories of sarcomas – soft tissue and bone – and each has several sub-types.

    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.


    Q: What are orthopedic cancers?

    Orthopedic cancers are associated with bones. Most often, orthopaedic cancers are metastatic, meaning the cancer has spread from another part of your body.

    Sarcoma is the most common cancer type that begins in bone. Bone sarcomas are known as osteosarcomas. Other forms of malignant (cancerous) bone tumors include chondrosarcoma, Ewing tumor, malignant fibrous histiocytoma (MFH), fibrosarcoma, and chordoma.


    Q: How common are sarcomas?
    Sarcomas are rare – they only account for about 1 percent of adult cancers and 15 percent of childhood cancers. In the U.S., about 11,930 new cases of soft-tissue sarcoma are expected to be diagnosed in 2015, resulting in approximately 4,870 deaths. There are approximately 2,970 new cases of bone and joint sarcoma in the U.S. every year, and of the new cases of bone sarcoma, about half occur in children and teenagers.

    Q: What are the risk factors for developing a sarcoma?

    There are no concrete reasons why people develop sarcomas, but certain risk factors have been identified:

    • 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.

    Q: What are the risk factors for developing orthopedic cancers?

    There are certain risk factors that increase the risk of developing bone cancers, but not all of these factors put you at risk for every form of bone cancer.

    • Previous radiation therapy treatment
    • Previous treatment with anticancer drugs
    • Certain conditions such as hereditary retinoblastoma, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Bloom syndrome, and Werner syndrome

    Q: What are the major signs and symptoms of sarcomas?

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


    Q: What are the major signs and symptoms of orthopedic cancers?

    The first symptom of bone cancer is usually pain or tenderness near the cancer. Bone pain can be caused because the cancer is stretching the thick membrane covering the bone (periosteum) or if the nerves within the bone are stimulated.

    It can be difficult to differentiate bone pain caused by a sarcoma from arthritis or other forms of pain. Usually, the pain of a sarcoma is fairly constant, even at night. Different positions can make the pain worse. If your pain lasts for more than a week or two and is unlike other pain, you should be evaluated by a physician with experience in orthopedic cancers.

    A pathological fracture may also be the first sign of bone cancer. A pathological fracture is caused by problems when the cancer destroys enough bone that the skeleton can no longer support the body. This causes the bone to fracture rather than needing an external factor, like force.


    Q: How is a sarcoma treated?

    Your treatment plan will be based on the type, location, and stage of your cancer, as well as your overall health. Usually, surgical removal of the surrounding tissue is recommended to reduce the risk of the tumor spreading to other areas of your body. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy may also be used to reduce the chances the tumor will recur.


    Q: How are orthopedic cancers treated?

    Your treatment options depend on the stage of your cancer and whether the cancer started in the bone or spread from another area of your body. If your tumor developed in the bone chemotherapy and surgery are options foroving the tumor, as well as radiation before or after surgery.

    More commonly, the cancer has spread to the bone and treatment will depend on where the cancer originated. Radiation therapy is an option for targeting the affected area and relieving pain.


    Q: Can a sarcoma or orthopedic cancer be prevented?

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

    It’s difficult to prevent orthopaedic cancers from forming because they most often result from other forms of cancer. No scientific evidence exists linking a bone fracture to the development of bone cancer.