What is Sarcoma?
Sarcoma is cancer that can develop in many body parts, including bone, muscle, fat, and connective tissue. There are two main types of Sarcoma, Bone and Soft tissue Sarcomas.
Soft tissue sarcomas can develop in 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 start in the arms or legs. They can also be found in the trunk, head and neck area, internal organs, and the area in the back of the abdominal (belly) cavity (known as the retroperitoneum). Sarcomas that most often start in the bones are osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and Ewing sarcoma.
There are more than 50 types of soft sarcomas, and some are quite rare.
If your doctor suspects you have sarcoma, they will do a diagnostic imagining. This includes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scan, positron emission tomography (PET) scan, X-ray, and ultrasound.
A CT scan gives the doctor a detailed 3D view of the scanned area.
If they find that there might be cancer, they may do a positron emission tomography (PET) scan that can detect cancer that the CT scan could not by using radioactive sugar. Cancer cells will use sugar much faster than our normal body cells.
If the PET scan confirms what the scans show, the final step to confirming you have cancer is taking some tissue from the cancerous areas to test. This is called a biopsy.
Once they have all the information, they will determine your cancer stage. The stage of cancer will help your doctor decide how to treat you. Staging is done on a numerical scale of 1-4. The higher the number, the more it has grown.
- Family history
- BRCA2 gene mutation
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- Carney-Stratakis syndrome
- Hereditary retinoblastoma
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Gardner’s syndrome
The general rule of thumb with cancers in your tissue (solid tumor cancers) is if they can remove that tissue, they will do that. There are some reasons they would not be able to remove the tissue. If the tissue is too large, they may need to shrink it by using radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of both. If cancer has spread to other parts of the body, then surgery is not always an option either.
After completing your therapy, you will follow up with your doctor every 3-6 months for the first 2-3 years. They may repeat your scans and blood work to ensure that the cancer is not returning or growing.
Your doctor might want to see you sooner if they think it is medically necessary.
Things to think about:
- Always get a second opinion. Healthcare professionals are humans and can see things differently.
- A biopsy is a gold standard for diagnosing solid tumor cancers. You should not just start therapy without having one.
- If you are feeling ill, having nausea, or anything out of the ordinary during your treatment, let your treatment team know! They might be able to help you. Remember, they are trying to help you, not make you miserable.
- The best way to fight cancer is to catch it early. So, see your doctor yearly for a physical and screen early, especially if you have risk factors. The slight inconvenience is worth it!