Sarcoma is a type of cancer that arises from transformed cells of mesenchymal (connective tissue) origin. It can occur in various locations in your body, including muscles, fat, blood vessels, nerves, and joints.
What is Sarcoma?
Sarcoma is a general term for a broad group of cancers that begin in the bones and in the soft tissues (also called connective tissues). Soft tissue sarcoma forms in the tissues that connect, support, and surround other body structures. This includes muscles, fat, blood vessels, nerves, tendons, and the lining of your joints.
Types of Sarcoma
There are two main types of sarcoma - soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcomas are most common in the muscles, blood vessels, or other soft tissues of the body. Bone sarcomas, also known as bone cancers, are less common.
Type of Bone Sarcoma:
- Osteosarcoma (most common)
- Ewing sarcoma
Type of Soft Tissue Sarcoma:
- Desmoplastic small round cell tumour
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST)
- Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumour
- Malignant schwannoma
- Synovial sarcoma
- Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma
Risks of Sarcoma
Factors that can increase the risk of sarcoma include:
- Inherited syndromes
- Radiation therapy for cancer
- Chronic swelling (lymphedema)
- Exposure to chemicals
- Exposure to viruses
Symptoms of Sarcoma
Signs and symptoms of sarcoma can vary depending on the size and location of the tumour. They may include:
- A lump that can be felt through the skin that may or may not be painful
- Bone pain
- A broken bone that happens unexpectedly with a minor injury or no injury at all
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
A sarcoma diagnosis involves a combination of clinical examination by a doctor and imaging tests, and is ultimately confirmed by the results of a biopsy. In addition to a physical examination, some of the tests used to diagnose sarcoma include:
- Imaging tests: These tests provide a visualisation of the inside of the body. Both benign and cancerous tumours will show on imaging tests, such as X-rays. A radiologist, a medical doctor who performs and interprets imaging tests to diagnose diseases, will assess the tumour’s appearance to determine whether it is benign or cancerous.
- Biopsy: In this procedure, a piece of suspicious tissue is removed for lab testing. Sophisticated lab tests can determine whether the cells are cancerous and the type of cancer.
- Bone scan: A bone scan may be performed if osteosarcoma is suspected.