The Forgotten Cancer: What to Know About Sarcoma

Sarcoma is a type of cancer that develops in tissues or bones. There are more than 70 subtypes of sarcoma cancers, with bone and soft tissue sarcomas being the main two types. Soft tissue sarcomas develop in soft tissues like fat, muscle, nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels, or deep skin tissues.

Sarcoma Risk Factors

There are a couple of known risk factors that may contribute to someone developing sarcoma:

  • It is possible for patients to develop sarcomas from radiation given to treat other cancers, such as breast cancer or lymphoma. However, only 5% of sarcomas are caused by radiation exposure.
  • There are some genetic syndromes that can increase a person's risk of developing soft tissue sarcomas. Those syndromes may be neurofibromatosis, Gardner syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, retinoblastoma, Werner syndrome, Gorlin syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis.

Though sarcoma can be found in the bone, having a history of bone injuries does not increase one’s risk of developing the disease. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and exercise are also not linked to the risk for soft tissue sarcoma. 

Signs and symptoms of sarcoma

There are no known ways to prevent sarcomas, so it’s important to know your risk factors and to understand what the signs and symptoms are. Make sure to see your primary care physician if you experience unusual and prolonged:

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

These symptoms can also be symptoms of other medical conditions. Regardless, if you experience these symptoms and they seem to be getting worse, or you have been experiencing them for a long time, visit your primary care provider.

Sarcoma Treatment

Treating sarcoma may include a team of oncology specialists. Sarcomas may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and other drug therapies. These treatments are available at Karmanos Cancer Institute locations throughout the Karmanos Cancer Network. As a care team, our oncologists work closely with patients and their families to ensure their treatment plan is individually tailored to treating their sarcoma.