The Forgotten Cancer: Sarcoma

Risk Factors, Signs and Symptoms of Sarcoma

Author: Jasmine Brown

Sarcoma Awareness Ribbon

What is Sarcoma?

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


Sarcoma Risk Factors

Radiation exposure accounts for less than five percent of sarcomas. However, patients can develop sarcomas from radiation given to treat other cancers, such as breast cancer or lymphoma. In addition, some family cancer syndromes increase a person's risk of developing soft tissue sarcomas. If you were treated for cancer at a younger age, or have a family history of soft tissue sarcomas, Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint offers genetic testing.


Injury and lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and exercise are not linked to the risk for soft tissue sarcoma. 


According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there are around 13,000 new cases of sarcoma cancer diagnosed in the United States each year. The chances of developing sarcoma is 1 in 250. Sarcomas make up one percent of all cancers, but they make up about 20% of childhood cancers, according to the Sarcoma Foundation of America. About 5,000 people will die of this disease each year.


Sarcomas are more commonly discovered in children and adolescents, as well as adults under the age of 30. Soft tissue sarcomas usually occur in younger people in their 20s and 30s, while bone sarcomas often occur in children when they are going through growth spurts.


Sarcoma Symptoms

According to the ACS, about 50% of soft-tissue sarcomas begin in an arm or leg, and around 4 out of 10 cases start in the abdomen, or belly. Sarcomas can also develop in the chest or neck area, but this is rare.


If you have any of the following symptoms, make sure to see your primary care physician:


  • Swelling
  • A lump felt through the skin, anywhere on your body, especially if you notice that is growing
  • Fatigue
  • Bone pain or breaks
  • Persistent pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in vomit or stool (even stools appearing black and sticky)


Can Sarcomas Be Prevented?

The ACS states that there are no known ways to prevent sarcomas. Most cases of sarcoma cancer appear in people who do not have known causes of the disease, such as family cancer syndromes or exposure to radiation due to previous cancer treatment. The only way an individual can lower their risk of developing a sarcoma is to avoid the risk factors explained above.


You can find more information about sarcomas by visiting


Sarcoma Treatment

Treating sarcoma may include a team of oncology specialists, which is provided at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint. Tolutope Oyasiji, MD, MRCSI, MHSA, FACS specializes in soft tissue malignancies, such as sarcomas and melanomas. Dr. Oyasiji sees patients from Genesee and Lapeer counties and works closely with each patients’ team of physicians to provide comprehensive cancer care.


Karmanos physicians are available to answer any questions you may have about symptoms and can offer a second opinion. Call (810) 342-4848 to speak with our oncology nurse navigator today or visit