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Sarcomas: a whole family of cancers

Susan Daron, RN, BSN, OCN, is one of four oncology registered nurses at the Cancer AnswerLine™

Susan Daron, RN, BSN, OCN, is one of four oncology registered nurses at the Cancer AnswerLine™

Sarcomas are rare tumors and comprise about 1% of adult cancers and about 15% of childhood cancers. They are classified into two groups based upon where the tumor started:

  • Bone
  • Soft tissue (this includes muscle, fat, nerve, cartilage and blood vessels)

Most sarcomas do not have any symptoms, but can be discovered as a lump or swelling that does not go away, which may or may not be painful.

Risk factors include genetic conditions such as:

Other risk factors include chromosomal alterations and, rarely, radiation exposure especially in childhood. According to the American Cancer Society, radiation exposure accounts for less than 5% of sarcomas. Exposure to vinyl chloride and arsenic are linked to development of liver sarcoma.

There are currently no screening tests for sarcoma, so it is important to know if you have a family history of sarcoma or any of the genetic conditions listed above.  If so, you may want to ask your healthcare provider about genetic testing.

Most sarcomas are treated with a combination of surgery and radiation. The radiation is used to kill any areas of cancer that were not seen and removed during surgery. Since sarcoma is a rare cancer, it is best to seek treatment and care at a facility that has a dedicated sarcoma clinic. The University of Michigan sees around 250 new sarcoma cases per year, and has the only Multidisciplinary Sarcoma Clinic in the state.

For more information on sarcoma please visit:

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center:  Sarcoma Awareness

Sarcoma Alliance

Medline Plus: Soft Tissue Sarcoma

The National Cancer Institute: A Snapshot of Sarcoma

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