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What is Sarcoma?

Sarcoma is an umbrella term used for a variety of malignancies that develop in various different locations in the body. These originate from the bones and soft tissues or connective tissues. The former is referred to as osteosarcoma, whereas the latter is known as soft tissue sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcoma affects the connective tissues like the muscles, fat, tendons, nerves and blood vessels. There are over 70 different types of sarcoma, which include:

  • Angiosarcoma
  • Chondrosarcoma
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans
  • Desmoplastic small round cell tumours
  • Epithelioid sarcoma
  • Ewing sarcoma
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST)
  • Kaposi's sarcoma
  • Leiomyosarcoma
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Liposarcoma

What are the symptoms that you need to look out for?

Various signs and symptoms associated with sarcoma include:

  • Formation of a mass or lump that can be felt through the skin
  • Mass or lump that is not painful at all
  • Unexpected fractures
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Unintentional loss of weight
  • General body weakness

What causes sarcoma?

Though the exact cause of sarcoma is not known, it is believed to be a result of adverse genetic mutations in the DNA of the cells, which cause them to grow and multiply very rapidly. This eventually results in the formation of a tumour. In advanced cases, these cells enter the bloodline and spread to other areas of the body via a process known as metastasis.

What are the various risk factors associated with sarcoma?

Certain factors are likely to elevate your risks of developing sarcoma. These include: Inherited syndromes – Inherited syndromes are those which are passed from the parents to the child. Some common inherited syndromes that can increase the risks of sarcoma include familial retinoblastoma and neurofibromatosis type 1.

  • Radiation therapy – Undergoing radiation therapy for certain different types of cancers
  • Chronic swelling – Also known as lymphedema, it refers to the swelling caused by the accumulation of fluid caused by severe obstruction or blockage in the lymphatic system.
  • Chemical exposure – Excessive exposure to certain industrial chemicals such as those present in pesticides, herbicides and paint, increase the risks of sarcoma involving the liver.
  • Exposure to viruses – These include viruses such as human herpesvirus 8, which can elevate the risks of a certain type of sarcoma called Kaposi's

Screening and diagnosis

  • Physical exam – A physical examination will be carried out to evaluate the symptoms and look for any mass or lumps
  • Imaging modalities – These include tests like CT (computerized tomography) scan, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography) scan
  • Biopsy – This is carried out by thoroughly examining and evaluating a sample of tissues collected from the affected area of the body.


  • Surgery – The aim of the surgery is to extract the tumour. In some cases, there might be a need to amputate the limb, though the emphasis is laid on preserving as much limb function as possible.
  • Radiation therapy – This involves the use of high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays and protons, to target and destroy the malignant cells.
  • Chemotherapy – It involves the use of a combination of drugs to kill cancer cells. Certain types of sarcoma respond to chemotherapy treatment than others.
  • Targeted therapy - It involves the use of certain medicines that target specific weaknesses in the diseased cells and kill them
  • Immunotherapy – It involves the use of certain drugs that help to boost the body’s immune system and is usually recommended to patients with advanced uterine cancer
  • Ablation therapy – It aims at destroying the cancerous cells using extreme conditions like heat and cold, to destroy the cells.

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