Sarcoma

Sarcoma is a type of cancer that forms in the body’s connective tissues, including bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, deep skin tissues, blood vessels, nerves, and other fibrous tissues. There are over 50 different types of sarcomas, which are usually named according to where the cancer originates. For example, osteosarcoma forms in bones, liposarcoma forms in fat, and rhabdomyosarcoma forms in muscle tissue. There are also different tumors types associated with sarcoma that are characterized by the cell of origin. The different types of sarcoma are generally divided into bone sarcomas and soft tissue sarcomas.

Over half of soft tissue sarcomas begin in the arms or legs, specifically in the tendons, ligaments, or muscle. Though rare, they are usually cancerous. There are 75+ subtypes of soft tissue sarcomas; treatment depends on the tissue type, identified genetic mutations, sensitivity to certain therapies, age of onset, aggressiveness, and growth pattern. Symptoms of soft tissue sarcomas include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Difficulty with normal movement
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia

Bone sarcomas are very rare and usually affect bones in the upper arms, shoulder, ribs, and legs. There are 4 subtypes of bone sarcomas: Osteosarcomas (found in growing bones of children), chondrosarcomas (found in cartilage), Ewing’s family of tumors, and giant cell tumor of the bone. Bone sarcomas can be cancerous or non-cancerous, and symptoms vary depending on the tumor location and size. Symptoms of bone sarcomas include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling and tenderness (usually around the joints)
  • Fractured bones
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia

Sarcomas are usually diagnosed by surgical biopsy. The specific causes of sarcoma cancers are unknown, but they can affect adults and children alike. Risk factors are few—perhaps none attributed to bone sarcomas—but exposure to radiation or certain chemicals can increase the chances of developing soft tissue sarcomas. Family medical history can also influence risk. Treatment of sarcomas vary depending on tumor size, location, and cancer type. Standard treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy