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Sarcoma Awareness Month

July is Sarcoma Awareness Month. We ask our specialist, Dr. Grace Tan some common questions about sarcomas and learn more on this rare disease.


sarcoma awareness month and ribbon

If you have further questions, feel free to leave a comment and our specialists will get back to you!


 

  1. What is Sarcoma?

Sarcomas are rare cancers. There are 2 main types of sarcoma:

  1. soft tissue sarcoma

  2. bone sarcoma

Sarcomas differ from other forms of cancers in their cell of origin. While most other forms of cancers develop from epidermal tissue, sarcomas develop from mesodermal tissue.


Soft tissue sarcomas start in our connective tissues. These include:

  • muscle

  • fat

  • nerves

  • fibrous tissues

  • tendons and ligaments

  • blood vessels.


Bone sarcomas start in the bone. 


The American Cancer Society's estimates that about 13,590 new soft tissue sarcomas will be diagnosed (7,700 in males and 5,890 in females) in the USA in 2024, while about 5,200 people (2,760 males and 2,440 females) are expected to die of soft tissue sarcomas. (1)


2. How many types of sarcomas are there?

There are many types of soft tissue sarcoma, including liposarcoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, leiomyosarcoma, gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs), synovial sarcoma and Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma. There are many other types of sarcomas with very interesting names! To discuss all the different types, we may have to spend more time over tea or coffee!


3. What causes sarcomas?

The causes of sarcomas are not known. There are certain risk factors that can increase the chances of developing a sarcoma. These include age, genetic conditions, exposure to radiation, lymphedema, exposure to chemicals, and injury.


Having risk factors does not mean you will get sarcoma, and people without risk factors can still develop sarcomas.


4. How would a patient with sarcoma find out that he/she has it?

The symptoms of the sarcoma, depends on the part of the body that is affected. The commonest symptoms are a lump or swelling. Worrying features of this lump or swelling are if it is:

  • getting bigger 

  • bigger than 5cm

  • painful or causing discomfort. 

Most swellings and lumps are not cancer. But if you notice any of these worrying features, it’s important to get them checked by a doctor.


There is also a group of patients who only discover that they have this condition when they go for a body scan for a non related reason or a non-specific symptom, like bloatedness.


5. What is the best way to treat a sarcoma?

The treatment of sarcomas, depend on the type of sarcoma and the stage of the disease. It is usually with surgery, and may also require other modalities like radiation or systemic therapy.


Seeking treatment and advice from a specialist who has experience with managing sarcomas is extremely important. Sarcomas are rare tumours, and is not treated in the same way as many other cancers. From the diagnosis, to treatment, the experience of the doctor the patient sees, can make a big difference to the outcome.


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