What is Sarcoma?

Sarcoma is a form of cancer that can develop almost anywhere in your body. However, these cancers are only found in certain types of tissues. Usually, sarcomas start in a bone or in soft tissue. The most common soft tissue for them to grow from is connective tissue. Sarcoma cancers that begin on soft tissues are often referred to as soft tissue sarcoma.

The treatment received for sarcoma will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The patient’s health
  • The type of sarcoma
  • Whether it has metastasized
  • Whether it is located on hard, or soft tissue
  • Whether all of the cancerous tissue can be easily accessed

Other medical conditions the patient has at the time of diagnosis

What are the Symptoms of Sarcoma?

The symptoms of a sarcoma can vary from person to person. Some patients do not have any signs or symptoms that the sarcoma is even present. In these cases, the cancer is typically found during a routine imaging exam for a different purpose.

If a patient does have signs or symptoms that a sarcoma is present, they usually involve the following:

  • A painless lump or swelling in the affected area.
  • If the tumor is pressing on nerves or muscles, there may be a painful lump.

As you can see, there are not very many symptoms present for a sarcoma. This is why most cases are found during routine examination, or during screening for a different condition.

Sarcoma Causes

Scientists are yet to understand why some people develop sarcomas while a vast majority do not. Through observation of populations affected by the condition, they have been able to single out some key factors that may cause sarcomas.

  • Previous studies indicate that people who are exposed to chlorophenols in wood preservatives and phenoxy-acetic acid found in herbicides have higher chances of developing sarcomas than unexposed people. Exposure to such chemicals and others such as dioxins can cause sarcomas
  • Soft tissue sarcomas can develop among all ages but the risk increases as people age. About 40% of soft tissue sarcoma is diagnosed in people over the age of 65
  • Individuals who previously underwent radiotherapy treatment for other forms of cancers are predisposed to sarcomas later in their lives. Radiation can potentially affect the healthy tissue that was treated for cancer.
  • A study revealed that overweight or obese women had an increased risk of developing sarcomas of the womb than those that are not obese or overweight.

How is Sarcoma Treated?

Treatment for sarcoma involves a team of health care professionals. If it has been determined that you are healthy enough to withstand surgery, the cancerous tissue, and a small amount of healthy tissue around it will be removed. This ensures that they remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible and do not leave anything behind.

After the cancerous tissue has been removed, your doctor will prescribe chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both depending on your situation. This allows them to kill off any cancer cells that floated free as the surgery was performed.

Sarcoma Prevention

Since most people who develop sarcoma may have few risk factors, there’s little that doctors can advise people on prevention. Interestingly, one may have all the risk factors but fail to develop this rare condition while another may lack any risk factors but still contract the illness.

One should avoid the risk factors listed.

  • Avoidance of radiation. However, this may be difficult for people already with cancer
  • Avoid exposure to toxic chemicals such as dioxins
  • Recognize the symptoms early:

– No existing test can inform the existence of sarcomas. However, it is beneficial if a person can identify the first signs and inform a doctor for early treatment and better survival chances.
– Sarcomas may begin with lumps on the body either new or an existing one that gets bigger. Most sarcomas start on the leg or arm.
– Abdominal pain that only gets worse and does not improve.