What you should know about sarcoma

en Español

sarcomaSarcoma is not a well-known cancer. Unlike breast or prostate cancer, many people have never heard of this cancer until they or someone they know is diagnosed. July is Sarcoma Awareness Month, and the following are some facts about this disease.

  • Sarcoma is rare – it accounts for only 1% of all cancers diagnosed in adults.
  • Sarcoma is more common in children and young adults, accounting for approximately 15% of cancers seen in children.
  • Sarcoma commonly occurs in the extremities like the legs and arms, but can also arise in the abdomen and hips.
  • There are two main types of sarcoma: Bone and soft tissue. Soft tissue is the more common, and it can arise in the muscle, cartilage, fat, tendons and nerves.
  • Soft tissue sarcomas are named according to the tissue from which they arise. There are approximately 50 sub-types of sarcoma.
  • Most people that develop sarcoma don’t have a known risk factor, but risk factors include previous radiation therapy, certain genetic syndromes and exposure to dioxins that are used in herbicides and insecticides.
  • Signs and symptoms include a lump on the body that is usually painless, or abdominal pain that doesn’t go away.
  • There is no regular screening that is done for sarcoma like there is for breast, prostate or colon cancer.

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Rx for childhood sarcoma survivors: A lifetime of surveillance and screening

sarcoma survivorship

Laurence Baker, D.O. and Monika Leja, M.D. have established the first Sarcoma Survivorship Clinic. It includes pediatric and adult sarcoma experts across all medical disciplines.

A generation ago, despite aggressive surgery that included radical amputation, newly diagnosed patients with a bone or soft tissue sarcoma often died of cancer. Today the vast majority of these patients are cured. But for many teens and young adults who were successfully treated for sarcoma, the future holds uncertainty about achieving or maintaining good health.

Survivors face unique problems and psychosocial challenges related to sarcoma surgery, radiation and chemotherapy that have a major impact on long-term health. Many have a reduced life expectancy.

Heart disease in a 30-year-old is rare; heart disease in a 30-year-old sarcoma survivor is not. In fact, heart disease is the main issue facing sarcoma survivors – nearly a third will develop a cardiac issue after treatment.

Other potential conditions include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Lipid disorders
  • Kidney failure
  • Anxiety, depression and other mental health problems
  • Sarcoma recurrence
  • Secondary cancer(s)

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