What are Sarcomas?
Sarcomas are a class of rare cancers that develop in the bones or soft tissues in the body. These areas can include muscle, fat, cartilage, and blood vessels. Cancer develops if certain cells in those areas become abnormal and begin to grow out of control. This often results in a lump that develops somewhere in the body.
There are no screening tests available to look for sarcoma. Screening tests are intended to find cancers early, before they cause any symptoms. Since sarcomas can grow anywhere in the body, there is no screening test for them. Cancer is diagnosed when evaluating the source of someone’s symptoms.
Risk factors for sarcoma
A few things have been identified that may put someone at a higher risk for developing sarcoma. These include:
● History of radiation exposure (such as for a treatment for another cancer)
● Family history of sarcoma
● Li-Fraumeni syndrome
● Tuberous sclerosis
● Arsenic exposure
● Vinyl chloride exposure
Symptoms of sarcoma
As sarcomas can grow essentially anywhere in the body, symptoms can vary, and sarcoma symptoms can vary depending upon its location. Some symptoms may include the following:
● A lump somewhere on the body, which may or may not be painful
● Abdominal pain
● Bone pain
● Blood in the vomit or stool
● Chest pain
● Shortness of breath
Imaging studies for sarcoma
Because the symptoms and location of sarcoma can vary, imaging studies can also vary to evaluate the source of the symptoms. One of the first imaging studies that may be used may include a plain film x-ray.
Other tests can include a CT (computed tomography) scan, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), or ultrasound.
A biopsy may be recommended if a suspicious area is seen on any of these images. During a biopsy, some of the tissue is removed from the suspicious area and tested for cancer cells. This is what yields the official diagnosis. From there, the oncology team can develop a treatment plan.
Sarcomas are a type of cancer that can be difficult to detect early on. Screening for sarcomas is important to catch the disease early and increase chances for successful treatment. Sarcoma awareness is critical to saving lives.