What is Sarcoma?

A sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that forms in bones, joints, muscles or soft tissues. There are many kinds of sarcomas, and they can develop anywhere in the body.

Sarcomas can be challenging to diagnose and treat. That’s why it’s important to find a doctor with experience managing this type of cancer. Early detection is the best way to prevent serious complications like limb amputation. And if we catch sarcoma before it spreads, your odds of successful treatment are much higher.

Types of Sarcomas

Most sarcomas start in bone or soft tissues, especially in the arms, legs or abdomen. Soft tissues include fat, cartilage, tendons, blood vessels, nerves, and deep skin tissue. Sarcomas are named for the type of tissue they grow in, or the tissue cells they most resemble. There are more than 50 kinds of sarcomas, including:

  • Angiosarcomas: begin in blood or lymph vessels
  • Clear cell sarcomas: grow in tendons, usually in the arms or legs
  • Epithelioid sarcomas: develop in tissues under the skin, usually in the hands, forearms, lower legs or feet
  • Liposarcomas: grow in fat tissue, often in the thigh or knee
  • Osteosarcomas: start in the bones
  • Synovial sarcomas: grow in joint tissue

Signs & Symptoms

Because sarcomas affect tissues all over the body, symptoms vary widely. Common signs include:

  • Persistent bone pain
  • A growing lump under the skin; the lump may or may not be painful
  • Abnormal swelling
  • Persistent abdominal pain

If your unusual symptoms aren’t related to a known illness or injury, see your doctor. He or she will help figure out what’s causing them, and confirm (or rule out) cancer.

Sarcoma Treatment at Mercy

Finding out you have cancer isn’t easy. And learning you have a rare cancer can be especially frightening. Fortunately, Mercy’s cancer team has experience treating most kinds of sarcomas, including unusual varieties. We also aim to provide care that’s as thoughtful as it is thorough. We’ll guide you through the treatment process with compassion and communication, so you feel informed and supported.

Your treatment strategy will depend on the type of sarcoma you have, and whether it’s early or advanced. Depending on where in the body your sarcoma is located, your doctor may work with other Mercy specialists. For example, if you have bone cancer, you may receive care from an orthopedic surgeon as well as a medical or radiation oncologist.

Your doctor may recommend you have one or more of the following treatments:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor. Your doctor will preserve as much healthy tissue or bone as possible.
  • Radiation treatments, including brachytherapy or external beam radiation therapy.
  • Medication, including chemotherapy or targeted therapy.

If you have a sarcoma, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. But you can rest assured knowing Mercy’s physicians have the expertise and experience you need to get through this. Our goal is not just to cure your cancer. We’ll do everything we can to minimize your side effects and maximize your long-term quality of life.

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