Sarcoma is sometimes called a “forgotten cancer” because it accounts for only 1% of all adult cancer diagnoses and about 15% of childhood cancer diagnoses. It is a cancerous tumor that appears in the body’s connective tissues, such as fat, muscle, blood vessels, nerves, and the tissue that surrounds bones and joints. Since this covers such a wide area, sarcomas can form in various parts of your body — anywhere from your head to your toes.
“Sarcoma is typically a rare soft-tissue malignancy that presents as a nodule beneath the skin, that can grow into the skin and cause local problems,” said Dr. Michael Hall, Radiation Oncologist at MyCare Medical in partnership with The Medical Group of South Florida. “There is no defined screening test or exam for sarcoma. So it’s important as a patient — if you notice this type of symptom or problem, that you address it as soon as possible and try to meet with your Primary Care Doctor.”
What are the symptoms of sarcoma?
Symptoms vary depending on the tumor’s location. For example, some sarcomas may not cause noticeable symptoms in the early stages. Some sarcomas may feel like a painless lump under your skin, while others don’t cause pain until they grow large enough to press on an organ. Other sarcomas can cause long-lasting pain or swelling in your arm or leg that worsens at night. These changes may limit your movement. Symptoms may include:
- A new lump that may or may not hurt.
- Pain in an extremity (arm/leg) or abdomen/pelvis.
- Trouble moving your arm or leg (a limp or limited range of motion).
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Back pain.
Sarcoma shares symptoms with many other conditions. Your primary care provider can help determine whether your symptoms are related to sarcoma or another disease or disorder.
How is sarcoma diagnosed?
Your primary care provider will begin with a thorough history and physical examination. They may perform special tests on a tissue sample obtained from a biopsy to diagnose the exact type of sarcoma you have.
They may use any of the following tests when making a diagnosis:
- X-ray: X-rays use small amounts of radiation to take pictures of bones and soft tissues inside your body.
- Computed tomography scan: A CT scan uses computers to combine many X-ray images into cross-sectional views of the inside of your body.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI uses large magnets, radio waves, and a computer to create clear images of the inside of your body. Your provider may order an MRI to see more detailed pictures if an X-ray shows something abnormal.
- Bone scan: During a bone scan, your provider will inject a small amount of radioactive material into your body to identify bone disorders, such as bone sarcoma.
- PET scan: A PET scan uses a special glucose tracer that clings to cells using high amounts of glucose, like cancer cells. A PET scan shows parts of your body where glucose levels are unusually high, suggesting a tumor.
- Biopsy: During a biopsy, your provider removes tissue from your tumor and sends the sample to a lab. A specialist called a pathologist analyzes the tissue under a microscope to see if it’s a sarcoma. This analysis helps your provider understand what type of sarcoma you have and what treatments may work best.
How are sarcomas treated?
Treatment for this type of cancer will depend on the type of sarcoma, its location, how aggressive the cells are, and whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body. In most cases, sarcoma is usually treated with surgery to remove the cancerous tumor. Treatment for sarcoma may include – surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, ablation therapy, and immunotherapy.
When diagnosed with sarcoma, your oncologist will work to develop a specific treatment plan based on each individual diagnosis. At MyCare Medical in partnership with The Medical Group of South Florida, our treatment options are segmented by each stage of the soft tissue sarcoma and the treatment plan made by your oncologist may include:
- Surgery (wide local excision or Mohs microsurgery)
- Radiation therapy before and/or after surgery
If cancer is found in the head, neck, abdomen, or chest, treatment may include the following:
- Radiation therapy before or after surgery
- Fast neutron radiation therapy
Stages II and III:
- Surgery (wide local excision)
- Surgery (wide local excision) with radiation therapy, for large tumors
- High-dose radiation therapy for tumors that cannot be removed by surgery
- Radiation therapy or chemotherapy before limb-sparing surgery; radiation therapy may also be given after surgery
- A clinical trial of surgery followed by chemotherapy, for large tumors
Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes:
- Surgery (wide local excision) with or without lymphadenectomy. Radiation therapy may also be given after surgery
- Radiation therapy before and after surgery
- A clinical trial of surgery followed by chemotherapy
Cancer has spread to internal organs:
- Surgery (wide local excision)
- Surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by radiation therapy
- High-dose radiation therapy, with or without chemotherapy, for tumors that cannot be removed by surgery
- Chemotherapy with one or more anticancer drugs, before surgery or as palliative therapy to relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life
- A clinical trial of chemotherapy with or without stem cell transplant
- A clinical trial of chemotherapy following surgery to remove cancer that has spread to the lungs
We are here for you
If you are experiencing any of the associated symptoms of Sarcoma, seek immediate help from your healthcare provider. Also, remember to ask your healthcare provider about pains in your body during your regular checkups. Our healthcare providers agree that early detection is essential. if you notice that a lump has formed and has not gone away, it is important not to ignore it.
The news of a cancer diagnosis can be very difficult to overcome. If you have concerns about a cancer diagnosis, please call our oncology department at (561) 721-6891 and make a consultation with Dr. Michael Hall, Radiation Oncologist at The Medical Group of South Florida. Dr. Hall can help walk you through the various treatment options available to your unique situation.
Book a consultation with Dr. Hall and start beating cancer today.