Topic of the Month: Sarcoma
What is Sarcoma?
A sarcoma is a type of cancer that develops from certain tissues, like bone or muscle. There are 2 main types of sarcoma: bone sarcomas and soft tissue sarcomas.
Soft tissue sarcomas can develop from soft tissues like fat, muscle, nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels, or deep skin tissues. They can be found in any part of the body. Most of them develop in the arms or legs. They can also be found in the trunk, head and neck area, internal organs, and the area in back of the abdominal cavity (known as the retroperitoneum). Sarcomas are not common tumors, and most cancers are the type of tumors called carcinomas.
Bone sarcomas, or bone cancer, are the second type of sarcoma. There are three types of bone sarcoma: osteosarcoma; Ewing’s sarcoma; and chondrosarcoma. Bone sarcomas very rare with approximately 2,890 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year, and approximately 1,410 deaths.
What are Symptoms of Soft Tissue Sarcoma?
Soft tissue sarcomas rarely cause symptoms in the early stages. The first sign of a sarcoma in an arm, leg, or trunk may be a painless lump or swelling. Most lumps are not sarcoma. The most common soft-tissue lumps are lipomas, which are made of fat cells and are not cancer. These lumps have often been there for many years and do not change in size. It’s important to talk with your doctor about any lumps that get larger or are painful. People with sarcoma that starts in the abdomen may not have any symptoms or may have pain or a sense of fullness.
What are Risk Factors for Soft Tissue Sarcoma?
Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for soft tissue sarcoma include the following inherited disorders
How is Sarcoma Diagnosed?
The only reliable way to determine whether a tumor is benign or malignant is through a surgical biopsy. During this procedure, a doctor makes an incision or uses a special needle to remove a sample of tumor tissue. A pathologist examines the tissue under a microscope. If cancer is present, the pathologist can usually determine the type of cancer and its grade. The grade of the tumor is determined by how abnormal the cancer cells appear when examined under a microscope. The grade predicts the probable growth rate of the tumor and its tendency to spread. Low-grade sarcomas, although cancerous, are unlikely to metastasize. High-grade sarcomas are more likely to spread to other parts of the body.
What are the Treatment Options?
Surgery is the most common first treatment for sarcomas that are smaller and in specific locations. If the tumor cannot be removed by surgery, it may be possible to permanently control its growth with radiation therapy. For a tumor that can be surgically removed, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy may be given before or after surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence (cancer coming back after treatment). Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also be used to reduce the size of the sarcoma or relieve pain and other symptoms.
What are Nutritional Considerations?
Sarcoma and sarcoma treatment can cause a variety of nutrition-related side effects. Many of these can be managed with changes in diet, food selection, and preparation.