Sarcoma: A Rare Form of Cancer

Dr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra
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A sarcoma is a rare kind of cancer, different from common carcinomas. It grows in connective tissue and develops commonly in bones, muscles, tendons, nerves, fat, and blood vessels. Learn more about types of sarcoma, its symptoms, treatments, prevention and tests for detecting sarcoma.

What is Sarcoma?

A sarcoma is one of the rarest kinds of cancer. It is different from carcinomas because they affect a different kind of tissues that connects, supports or surrounds any of the body systems. Sarcomas are tumor and usually affect the bone, skin, and other soft tissues. Sarcoma is divided into two main groups, bone sarcomas, and soft tissue sarcomas. They are further classified based on the type of presumed cell of origin found in tumor. Children and adults are mostly affected by sarcomas. For children under the age group of 20, approximately 15 percent of a cancer diagnosis is associated with sarcomas. Every year approximately 15,000 new cases of sarcoma are diagnosed.

Types of Sarcomas

In general, sarcomas are divided into the following categories:

1. Soft tissue sarcomas 

Soft Tissue Sarcoma comprises approximately one percent of all cancers diagnosed. Every year there are approximately 11,280 new cases of soft tissue sarcoma in the United States alone out of which 3,900 people die of the disease each year. 

Soft tissues sarcomas are more prevalent among men than in women. They mostly affect the muscles, fat, blood vessels, tendons, fibrous tissues, and synovial tissues. Some studies have shown that people exposed to phenoxyacetic acid in herbicides and chlorophenols in wood preservative have increased the risk of soft tissue sarcoma. In addition, people exposed to high level of radiation are at a greater risk. Soft tissue sarcomas can only be diagnosed by a surgical biopsy depending on the size, location, extent, and grade (growth rate) of the tumor.

2. Bone sarcomas (bone cancer)

Another type of sarcoma cancer is bone sarcomas or bone cancer. Bone sarcoma is of three types namely: 

  • Osteosarcoma
  • Ewing’s sarcoma
  • Chondrosarcoma

Approximately 2,890 new cases of bone sarcomas are reported every year and around 1,410 deaths occur due to this disease each year.

Bone sarcomas like soft tissue sarcomas are also higher in males than females. Bone sarcomas are more likely to be diagnosed among children, so it is important to consult a pediatric oncologist or an orthopedic oncologist for treatment of the disease. Symptoms of bone sarcomas depend on the location and size of tumor. Bone cancer can be diagnosed firstly with a complete medical history and physical examination performed by a physician. 

Bone Sarcoma

Risks of Developing Sarcoma

Although what causes sarcoma is still unclear, there are some things that raise the risk of developing this cancer, which include the following:

  • Family history of sarcoma
  • When a person has a bone disorder called Paget's disease
  • Genetic disorder such as neurofibromatosis, Gardner syndrome, retinoblastoma, or Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • High level of exposure to radiation during a previous cancer therapy example, vinyl chloride, dioxins, and phenoxyacetic herbicides
  • Some carcinomas can be attributed to lifestyle choices, example smoking cigarettes, eating an unhealthy diet, and lack of exercise

Symptoms of Sarcoma

Sarcomas can occur in any part of the body and they are very hard to spot. Sarcoma usually starts with a painless lump that gets bigger with time. The bigger the size of the lump, the more complication arises because it can press against nerves or muscles and cause discomfort.

Some of the common symptoms associated with sarcoma are as follows:

  • A lump or mass that grows anywhere on body
  • Swelling in the arms and legs
  • Skin Lesions
  • Abdominal pain which gets worst at night
  • Presence of blood in stool and vomit
  • Frequent pain in the affected bone
  • A limp, if the sarcoma is in leg

Both types of Sarcoma put forth different symptoms altogether. Soft tissue sarcomas are nearly impossible to detect due to their propensity of developing in any part of a body. Bone sarcomas show some early signs through which one can identify it. 

Bone sarcoma is more common among children and young adults. Teens and young adults tend to get injured frequently due to their active lifestyle; they are continuously engaged in activities that demand their physical presence.

If a child is experiencing any of the above symptoms, then it is highly advised to consult a doctor right away. 

Tests Done to Confirm Sarcoma

Diagnosis of a sarcoma is based on varied medical examinations and lab tests that can put forth the confirmation of Sarcoma in a body. 

Below are some of the tests that are done for this purpose:-

  • Biopsy - An act of taking a sample from the tumor
  • Imaging tests - Some imaging tests are also conducted to solidify the probability of this condition. These tests are Ultrasound, MRI and CT Scan
  • X-Ray - An image of the affected bone i.e. bone scan in the cases of bone sarcoma

Treatments for Sarcoma

Some of the treatments available for treating this cancer are:

1. Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is given for the destruction of cancer cells. This treatment option might be used before or after the surgery and it works by sterilizing the tumor cells, making them unable to divide and continue to grow.

radiation machine for radio therapy

2. Surgery

Surgery is performed in order to eliminate a tumor present in the body and any surrounding tissue that is directly affected by it. For effective results, surgery is mostly opted after initial chemotherapy is done to shrink sarcoma tumors. 

3. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the most effective treatment available for treating sarcomas. It is the only treatment, which controls and prevents the spread ofcancer into the lungs, vital organs and other parts of the body. With the advent of new treatments and technology, the side effects of chemotherapy are significantly reduced and are virtually nonexistent in many cases. The new chemotherapy treatment has substantially reduced infections and the need for blood transfusions. It virtually eliminates nausea and vomiting for most of the patients.


Prevention of Sarcoma

The only ways to prevent sarcomas is to avoid exposure to risk factors whenever possible. Switching to real organic foods and eating less of packaged food is one of the easiest ways to prevent sarcoma. Though people often complain about the higher cost of organic foods, it is much lesser in comparison to the costs of treating cancer and other diseases that packaged unhealthy foods can cause. A continuous agility can make a big difference in overall physical health. Your immune system builds up automatically by remaining physically active, which can save you from being a victim of many cancers including Sarcoma. Alcohol consumption and chewing tobacco are extremely bad for health; it can cause many types of cancers, which also includes Sarcoma. 

Hope this article was helpful to you in providing information about Sarcoma cancer. For more updates, follow Elacancer blog. If you are looking for a wide range of supportive therapies for cancer, book appointment today, call us at +91-8929020600

Dr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra

About the Author

Hematologist Oncologist, Medical Oncologist
Dr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra is a Medical Oncologist at SIMS Hospital in Vadapalani, Chennai. Dr. Ranjan specializes in Bone Marrow Transplant treatment, Solid Tumor treatment, Radiation Therapy, Chemotherapy, Chemotherapy of Haematological Malignancies and Haemato Oncology treatment. Dr. Ranjan has completed his MBBS from Veer Surendra Sai Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Sambalpur, Odisha in the year 1983 and MD in General Medicine from MKCG Medical College, Berhampur, Odisha in the year 1990. Further, he pursued DM in Oncology from Cancer Institute (WIA), Chennai in the year 1993. Dr. Ranjan has a membership in European Society of Medical Oncology and Indian Society of Medical and Paediatric Oncology. Later, he joined European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation. He has an experience of more than two and a half decades in the field of cancer treatments. He is registered with Orissa Medical Council in 1985. Dr. Ranjan is currently practicing at SIMS Hospital, a multispeciality centre situated in Vedapalani, Chennai. Book a FREE appointment with Dr. Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra at
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