HEALTH

The truth about Sarcoma

Almost 5300 people in the UK each year are diagnosed with Sarcoma.

Sarcoma is a rare cancer which is a tumour of the connective tissues, affecting any part of the body, and makes up 1.3% of cancer diagnoses in the UK. It can develop in the inside or outside of the body, including muscles, blood vessels, and fatty tissues, and are most commonly found in the arms, torso, or legs. 

Sarcoma contains over 50 types of malignant tumours, which are named depending on the tissue they develop in. These are often grouped into two main types – soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcomas are very uncommon, with 3300 new cases being diagnosed yearly on average.

So how do you know if you may have Sarcoma? Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling a lump within the skin
  • Breaking a bone unexpectedly – e.g through minor injury 
  • Abdominal pain
  • Losing weight 

Concerned you may have these symptoms?
You can visit a doctor who will diagnose sarcoma through a set of tests. These include a clinical examination to check for any lumps, and scans such as x-ray, CT, MRI. The doctor will also take a biopsy where your tissue will be examined, as well as having a bone scan. 

How does Sarcoma develop?
Sarcoma falls into three different grades: 

Low-grade sarcoma means that the cancer cells are growing at a slow rate, look similar to normal cells, are more passive and less likely to spread. Intermediate grade sarcoma is characterised by cancer cells looking abnormal and growing slightly faster than low-grade cells. 

High-grade sarcoma contains cancer cells that grow quickly, look largely abnormal, are more aggressive in nature and likely to spread. And these grades of sarcoma go through 4 different stages:

  • Stage 1: The cancer is low in grade, is small, and has not spread throughout the body.
  • Stage 2: The cancer is usually above grade one but has not spread throughout the body.
  • Stage 3: This is a high-grade cancer that has not spread throughout the body.
  • Stage 4: This is a cancer of any grade or size that has spread to other parts of the body.

Unfortunately, the cause of sarcoma is not clear, but research has identified factors that increase the likelihood of developing sarcoma, such as: 

  • Sarcoma runs in the family 
  • Having a genetic disorder such as neurofibromatosis, Gardner syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, or retinoblastoma
  • You live with Paget’s disease
  • Exposure to chemicals
  • Exposure to viruses – e.g herpesvirus 8

In aid of Sarcoma Awareness Week 2019, we will leave you with some facts and figures you should know about Sarcoma:

  • 10 people every day are diagnosed with sarcoma in the UK
  • Sarcomas make up 15% of all childhood cancers (0-14 years)
  • Roughly 50-60% of soft tissue sarcomas occur in the arms and legs
  • Often, the cause for most sarcomas is unknown
  • Getting a second opinion is important – sarcomas are rare, hard to detect and diagnose, and sometimes are misdiagnosed
  • There are about 100 different sub-types of sarcoma

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