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July is Sarcoma Awarenss Month

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Rio Grande Cancer Foundation
Rio Grande Cancer Foundation
Rio Grande Cancer Foundation
  Ted Escobedo   3 min read 5 years ago

July is Sarcoma Awarenss Month

What is Sarcoma?

Cancer starts when cells start to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer and can spread to other areas. There are many types of soft tissue tumors, and not all of them are cancerous. Many benign tumors are found in soft tissues. The word benign means they're not cancer. These tumors can't spread to other parts of the body. Some soft tissue tumors behave in ways between a cancer and a non-cancer. These are called intermediate soft tissue tumors.

When the word sarcoma is part of the name of a disease, it means the tumor is malignant (cancer). A sarcoma is a type of cancer that starts in tissues like bone or muscle. Bone and soft tissue sarcomas are the main types of sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcomas can develop in soft tissues like fat, muscle, nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels, or deep skin tissues. They can be found in any part of the body. Most of them start in the arms or legs. They can also be found in the trunk, head and neck area, internal organs, and the area in back of the abdominal (belly) cavity (known as the retroperitoneum). Sarcomas are not common tumors.

Risk Factors

Scientists have found a few risk factors that make a person more likely to develop soft tissue sarcomas:

Radiation given to treat other cancers

Radiation exposure accounts for less than 5% of sarcomas. But patients might develop sarcomas from radiation given to treat other cancers, like breast cancer or Lymphoma . The sarcoma often starts in the part of the body that was treated with radiation. The average time between the radiation treatments and the diagnosis of a sarcoma is about 10 years.

Radiation therapy techniques have improved steadily over several decades. Treatments now target cancers more precisely, and more is known about selecting radiation doses. These advances are expected to reduce the number of cancers caused by radiation therapy. But because these cancers take so long to develop, the results of these changes may not be seen for a long time. Still, radiation therapy is used only when its benefits (improved survival rate and relief of symptoms) outweigh its risks.

Family cancer syndromes

Family cancer syndromes are disorders caused by gene defects (mutations) that people are born with (often inherited from a parent) that are linked to a high risk of getting certain cancers. Some family cancer syndromes increase a person's risk of developing soft tissue sarcomas.

Treatment: Sarcoma


The main types of treatment for soft tissue sarcoma are:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • It is important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs.

    Which doctors treat soft tissue sarcomas?

    Experts recommend that patients with sarcoma have a health care team made up of doctors from different specialties, such as:

  • An orthopedic surgeon: specializes in diseases of the bones, muscles, and joints (for sarcomas in the arms and legs)
  • A surgical oncologist: treats cancer with surgery (for sarcomas in the abdomen [belly] and retroperitoneum [the back of the abdomen])
  • A thoracic surgeon: treats diseases of the lungs and chest with surgery (for sarcomas in the chest)
  • A medical oncologist: treats cancer with medicines like chemotherapy
  • A radiation oncologist: treats cancer with radiation therapy
  • A physiatrist (or rehabilitation doctor): treats injuries or illnesses that affect how you move
  • Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, respiratory therapists, social workers, physical therapists, and other health professionals.

    After a sarcoma is found and staged, your team will recommend one or several treatment options. This decision is important, so take time and think about all of the choices. In choosing a treatment plan, factors to consider include the type, location, and stage of the cancer, as well as your overall physical health.


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