There’s a good reason we highlight July as Sarcoma Awareness Month. It’s a rare cancer that most people don’t even know exists. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly two million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States this year, but only an estimated 15,000 of them will receive a diagnosis of sarcoma.
“There are more than 50 different types of sarcoma, but most common forms of the disease include bone sarcoma and soft tissue sarcoma,” said Hari Deshpande, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology) at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital. “Sarcomas can occur anywhere in the body, involving the bone, muscle, tendon, fat and connective tissue.”
Here are five things you need to know about sarcoma:
1- What are the warning signs for sarcoma?
“A general symptom or sign of sarcoma is a lump, sometimes painful, on an arm or leg that keeps growing,” said Deshpande. “For other sarcomas that grow in the chest or abdomen, unfortunately, most people don’t know it’s there as the cancer can grow quite large in the body before they have any discomfort.”
2- Who is at risk for sarcoma?
“We don’t know what causes most sarcomas, but we do know some are hereditary, and that radiation exposure puts some people at a higher risk for the disease,” said Deshpande. “Bone sarcoma mainly affects young children and older adults, and soft tissue sarcoma is commonly found in older adults.”
3- What is the treatment for sarcoma?
“Like with most cancers, sarcoma is much more treatable if detected early,” said Deshpande. “For early-stage disease, treatment is mainly surgery and then radiation and chemotherapy, but varies depending on your sarcoma type, location and other factors.”
4- What new research is underway concerning sarcoma?
“We’re working on research for new treatments for sarcoma right here at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital,” said Deshpande. “Clinical trials include using immunotherapy drugs and immunotherapy drug combinations for people with advanced sarcoma.”
5- What should you do if you suspect sarcoma?
If a lump appears and it doesn’t go away, you should see a physician immediately,” adds Deshpande. “Your doctor will most likely order a test called a biopsy to check the cells from the affected area. CT and MRI scans are also helpful to pinpoint the type of sarcoma.”
To learn more about sarcoma, go to: https://www.yalecancercenter.org/patient/programs/sarcoma/