Sarcoma awareness month runs throughout the whole of July. Sarcomas are still considered to be the ‘forgotten cancer’ as there is a lack of awareness and understanding surrounding sarcomas. Here’s a quick summary of what sarcoma is.
Sarcomas are malignant tumours derived from mesenchymal cells. This means they can form in the bones, nerves, blood vessels and soft tissues. They can occur all over the body.
These tumours are due to mutations in the DNA of cells causing them to grow and divide uncontrollably, becoming cancerous.
15 people are diagnosed with sarcomas daily in the UK, that’s over 5000 people every year. There are three main types of sarcomas. There are soft tissue sarcomas, bone sarcomas and gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST). There are over 70 recorded subtypes of sarcomas.
Soft tissue sarcoma
Soft tissue sarcomas account for 1% of all cancer diagnosis. Tissues that can be affected by this type of sarcoma include fat, muscle, blood vessels, tendons, and ligaments. Most of this type of sarcoma can be found on the upper and lower limbs (arms and legs).
Gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs) are a type of soft tissue sarcoma that develops in the connective tissues that support the organs of the digestive system.
A shows a small GIST being resected whereas B is the postoperative view with a slight deformity from removing the tumour.
Different types of sarcomas
Bone sarcomas are a rare type of cancer. Osteosarcoma is a type of bone sarcoma that is more common in children under the age of 14, accounting for 4% of cancers in this age group. Young people can be affected due to rapid growth spurts that occur in puberty which may cause for bone tumours to develop. Chondrosarcoma is a type of bone sarcoma that is typically seen in patients over the age of 40.
Causes, symptoms, and treatments
There is no obvious cause of soft tissue sarcoma, but risk is developed due to older age, certain chemical exposure, previous radiotherapy, and certain genetic conditions such as retinoblastoma. More research is needed to fully understand how these cancers develop and spread. With more research, it’ll improve the methods of diagnosis and treatment options available.
Symptoms of sarcomas can be but are not limited to, are lumps, swelling, and regionalised pain. To confirm the presence of a sarcoma, MRI scans and a biopsy is performed. A biopsy is when a sample of suspected cancerous tissue is removed surgically and analysed in a lab.
Treatment is dependent on the stage of cancer. If caught early, surgery might be performed to remove the tumour. Other treatments include radiotherapy and chemotherapy to target and kill the cancerous cells.