A sarcoma is a form of cancer that can appear anywhere in an individual’s body. The word sarcoma is an umbrella term for a broad group of cancers that have their origins in the bones and in the soft tissues (soft tissue sarcoma). The soft tissue includes blood vessels, nerves, tendons, muscles, fat, fibrous tissue, the lower layers of the skin, and the lining of the joints.
Causes and Risk Factors of Sarcoma
It is not yet fully known the exact cause of soft tissue sarcoma. However, there are factors that may increase the risk of developing sarcoma. These include:
Inherited syndromes such as familial retinoblastoma and neurofibromatosis type 1
Exposure to some chemicals such as industrial chemicals
Radiation therapy for cancer
Exposure to viruses such as human herpesvirus 8 which increases the type of sarcoma known as Kaposi’s sarcoma
Symptoms of Sarcoma
A painless lump under the skin of the arm or leg
An intestinal blockage
Diagnosis of Sarcoma
The following tests and procedures are used to diagnose sarcoma as well as to determine its extent:
A physical exam: The doctor conducts a physical exam to understand the patient’s symptoms and search for other clues that will aid in the diagnosis.
Imaging tests: The suitable imaging tests will be determined by the patient’s situation. X-rays, MRI, ultrasound, CT, and positron emission tomography (PET) scans are some of the imaging tests that might be recommended in the diagnosis.
Biopsy: This involves extracting a sample of tissue, which is sent to the laboratory for further evaluation under a microscope.
Treatment of Sarcoma
Surgery: Surgery for sarcoma aims to remove all cancerous cells. In some cases, an arm or leg may be amputated in order to completely eliminate the malignancy.
Radiation therapy: This procedure involves the use of high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays and protons to kill cancer cells. A machine that is moved around the body can be used to direct the beams of energy (external beam radiation) or the radiation may be directly placed inside the patient’s body temporarily (brachytherapy).
Chemotherapy: This uses medication to destroys cancer cells. Chemotherapy is more likely to be effective against some sarcomas than others.
Targeted therapy: The treatment involves using medication that target specific weaknesses in cancer cells.
Immunotherapy: This is a treatment procedure that uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. Because cancer cells create proteins that weaken the immune system, an individual’s body immune system may fail to combat cancer. Therefore, immunotherapy acts by obstructing that process.
Ablation therapy: Treatments for ablation therapy work to kill cancer cells by damaging them with high-frequency ultrasonic waves, freezing them with extreme cold, or heating them.
Sarcoma is a type of cancer that develops in the connective tissues of the body, such as the bones, muscles, and cartilage.
Risk factors for sarcoma can include exposure to radiation, certain genetic conditions, and a history of previous cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Symptoms of sarcoma can include persistent pain, swelling or a lump in the affected area, and unexplained weight loss. Diagnosis may involve imaging tests such as CT or MRI scans, biopsy, or blood tests.
Treatment for sarcoma may involve surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these depending on the type and stage of the cancer and the individual patient's needs. Other treatments such as targeted therapy or immunotherapy may also be used for certain types of sarcoma. Treatment plans are developed by a team of medical professionals with expertise in sarcoma, and may include specialists such as orthopedic surgeons or radiation oncologists.