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Overview

Sarcomas are cancers that develop in the body's connective tissues. Connective tissues include muscle, fat, nerves, blood vessels, cartilage and bone. This type of cancer can occur in both children and adults. It is generally divided into two groups - soft tissue sarcomas and bone sarcomas.

Approximately 13,000 people are diagnosed with soft tissue sarcomas and 2,750 individuals with bone sarcomas each year.

The Patricia Lynch Cancer Center at Holy Name has a multi-disciplinary team of experienced and skilled surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, nurses and support staff. Together they provide a compassionate, unified approach in creating a personal strategy for each patient's unique medical, emotional and lifestyle needs.


Symptoms

  • Painless lump that is expanding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stool or vomit
  • Black, tarry stools

Risk Factors

  • Radiation exposure
  • Exposure to some herbicides and wood preservatives
  • Family history of sarcoma
  • Lymphedema
  • Neurofibromatosis

Diagnosis

  • Physical exam
  • CT scam
  • MRI
  • PET scan
  • Biopsy

Treatment

Most people diagnosed with soft tissue sarcomas can be treated by surgery alone. The surgery involves removing all of the cancer so that the margins, which are the edges of what has been removed, contain no cancer cells. Radiation therapy is sometimes used to shrink the cancer before surgery or to treat the residual cancer if any is left behind after surgery. Chemotherapy is generally used only when the cancer has already spread to other sites.

Symptoms

  • Pain in the affected bone, which may worsen at night
  • Swelling, usually starts weeks after the pain
  • A limp if the sarcoma is in the leg

Risk Factors

  • Family history of sarcoma
  • Personal history of Paget's disease
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Genetic disorders including neurofibromatosis, retinoblastoma, Gardner's syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome

Treatment

The most common treatment for bone sarcomas is surgery. Radiation therapy may be used to shrink the cancer before surgery or to treat the residual cancer if any is left behind after surgery. Chemotherapy is used when the cancer has already spread to other sites. Targeted therapy is also used at times to prompt the patient's own immune system to fight the cancer.