Auburn Woman Spots Signs of a Lesser-Known Cancer, and Why She Doesn’t ‘Mess Around’

Paying Attention to Her Body and Acting Quickly Led to Tumor Removal

Author: Jasmine Brown

Susan Plessner, Sarcoma Survivor

"I actually had thyroid cancer before, so, I’m not someone to mess around. If I think something’s suspicious, I want to get it taken care of.”

For Susan Plessner, there was no chance of skipping doctor appointments or ignoring the signs of a health issue, even during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. One reason for her diligence is the prevalence of cancer in her family.

“I always figured I’d get it some way or another because of the high incidence in our family history,” said Susan, who lives in Auburn, Michigan, about halfway between Bay City and Midland. “[My mom], she had esophageal [cancer] and then she had a PET scan that showed that it was widely metastasized. I actually had thyroid cancer before, so, I’m not someone to mess around. If I think something’s suspicious, I want to get it taken care of.”

After noticing an area of concern on her skin, Susan made an appointment with a skin specialist.

“They injected [the scar], but then I noticed there was growth under my skin. It was the size of a pecan,” explained Susan.

Susan noticed the growth slightly after the appointment with her skin specialist, but she was out of town visiting with family at the time. The growth that she experienced is one of the many signs of sarcoma. Susan says she also noticed the area was itchy. Other symptoms of sarcoma include:

  • Swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Bone pain or breaks
  • Persistent pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in vomit or stool (even stools appearing black and sticky)


Sarcomas are rare tumors that develop in tissue, like bone or muscle. There are more than 70 subtypes of sarcoma cancers, which form in the bone and soft tissue. Soft tissue sarcomas develop in soft tissues like fat, muscle, nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels, or deep skin tissues.

Susan wasted no time to get an appointment with her primary care physician as soon as she returned home. Her family doctor referred her to a surgeon who ordered a biopsy in July 2020. The test results revealed Susan had dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP) on her right shoulder.

“DFSP is a slow-growing cancer of the fibrous tissue beneath the skin, usually in the trunk or limbs,” explained Tolutope Oyasiji, MD, MRCSI, MHSA, FACS, board-certified surgical oncologist at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint. “It grows into nearby tissues, but rarely spreads to distant sites.”

“I was really quite surprised,” explained Susan. “Either way, I wanted it out of there because of the size and I didn’t know what it was. We had recently buried my mom, so that was on my mind.”

Susan’s surgeon referred her to Dr. Oyasiji, who specializes in the removal of soft tissue malignancies, such as sarcomas and melanomas.

“Susan was referred to me by her general surgeon, who initially saw her for treatment of the sarcoma. A lot of credit goes to her general surgeon, who recognized that Susan had a cancer that required a subspecialized expertise,” said Dr. Oyasiji.

“I had confidence in him,” explained Susan as she reflects on her visits with Dr. Oyasiji. “He seemed very knowledgeable. He took my concerns seriously. Especially since my mother went through all of this, I asked him to also get a CAT scan of my lungs, and he said okay. He ordered a scan for my pelvis, abdomen and chest.”

“I evaluated Susan with imaging tests to check and be sure that the sarcoma had not spread to other organs, like the lungs or liver,” explained Dr. Oyasiji. “Together, with other cancer experts, her case was discussed with scientific evidence at our multidisciplinary conference to curate a treatment plan that is unique to her and the kind of cancer she had. Having cleared that hurdle, I took her to surgery and performed appropriate surgery with complete removal of the tumor. Not only that, the removed tissue was adequately examined by our pathologists.

Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans Surgery Prep

“Following surgery, my expertise also comes into play, together with my colleagues - medical and radiation oncologists - to determine if she needed radiation or chemotherapy after surgery. Fortunately for Susan, she did not require these additional treatments. She continues surveillance on 3-6 monthly basis with interval imaging tests to closely monitor and be sure that the sarcoma does not come back. If it ever does come back, we’ll quickly swing into action and treat it."

For Susan, her only memory of the cancer is a scar in the area of her clavicle bone.

“I have a long scar – seven and a half inches, my grandson measured,” says Susan. “It’s all well healed and I feel fine.”

“Susan had an excellent recovery after surgery,” said Dr. Oyasiji. “She continues to do very well and enjoy life to the fullest. I am so happy that our team was able to help her on her journey to beat cancer.

Susan Plessner, Sarcoma Patient

When it comes to cancer, Susan takes the preventative route and knows that early detection is important. She gives this piece of advice to others:

“Go for your check-up as you’re supposed to. Even if you find anything in between check-ups, don’t be afraid to call your doctor and say this is concerning me.

For more information about surgical oncology at Karmanos and the cancers that Dr. Oyasiji is able to treat surgically, visit