Often times, when people hear the word “cancer”, sarcoma isn’t one that quickly comes to mind. Some may not even know what a sarcoma is–so it’s no surprise that it’s considered the “forgotten cancer.” To bring it to the forefront, July has been declared Sarcoma Awareness Month. Now, more than ever, is the perfect time to learn more about this rare disease.
What is Sarcoma?
Sarcomas can be broken into two main types: soft tissue sarcomas and bone sarcomas. There are, however, more than 50 different subtypes that fall under these two categories.
Soft tissue sarcoma is a broad term for cancers that start in soft tissues – such as muscle, tendons, fat, lymph and blood vessels, and nerves. These soft tissue cancers can develop anywhere in the body but are found mostly in the arms, legs, chest, and abdomen.
Sarcomas account for 1% of all adult cancers and 15% of all childhood cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates about 13,000 soft tissue sarcomas will be diagnosed in the United States in 2018.
What to Look For
Sarcomas are rare tumors that are often difficult to detect or diagnose until they have reached more advanced stages. There are, however, certain signs to pay attention to.
The American Cancer Society estimates about 13,000 soft tissue sarcomas will be diagnosed in the United States in 2018.
See a doctor right away if you experience any of these problems:
- A new lump or a growing lump anywhere on your body
- Abdominal pain that continues to get worse
- Blood in your vomit or stool
- Black, tar-like stools
In many cases, these symptoms are caused by something other than sarcoma. However, it is important to have it verified by a medical professional. Your doctor may use a variety of tests including X-ray, CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, PET scan, and biopsy to determine whether or not you have soft tissue sarcoma.
Surgery is the first-line treatment for soft tissue sarcomas. Once the tumor has been removed, radiation and/or chemotherapy may be given to help stop it from spreading.
Can Sarcomas Be Caught Early?
Screening tests and exams are not typically recommended for detecting sarcoma, unless you have a strong family history of soft tissue sarcomas or other cancers. If you feel as though you are at a genetic risk, you may want to talk with your doctor about whether or not you would benefit from genetic testing. If you are located in Arizona, one of our genetic counselors can discuss genetic testing, interpret the results, and provide guidance regarding your cancer risk.
Arizona Oncology offers genetic counseling at our locations throughout Arizona including Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson, Flagstaff, Northern Arizona, and Southern Arizona.