WHAT IS SARCOMA?
It is the name given to a group of rare and aggressive primary bone and soft tissue tumours which grow in the cells that connect or support other kinds of tissue in your body, such as bone, muscle, cartilage, fat, blood vessels, nerves or deep skin tissue. It is often misdiagnosed as a benign lump or, in young people, as a sporting injury or growing pains. There are around 175 subtypes, not all of which are malignant.
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Stats & facts
- Makes up 1.4% of all cancers
- Makes up 10-15% of paediatric cancers
- Makes up 10% of cancers in the 15-25 age group
- Bone tumours are more common in the paediatric & AYA community
- Soft tissue tumours are more commonly found in the adult population
- Most commonly found in males and females under 25 and in females over the age of 55
Subtypes of primary bone tumours include:
- Ewing’s Sarcoma
Bone tumours are more common in the paediatric and adolescent and young adult (AYA) age groups. Metastatic bone tumours are not sarcomas.
Soft Tissue Tumours
There are over 100 different subtypes of soft tissue sarcomas (STS) which are found in the connective tissues. Soft tissue sarcomas get their name from the tissue in which they are found eg leiomyosarcoma,(from smooth muscle) or liposarcoma (from fat).
Other soft tissue subtypes include:
- Epithelioid Sarcoma
- Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumours (GIST)
- Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumour (MPNST)
- Retroperitoneal tumours
- Synovial Sarcoma
- Undifferentiated sarcoma – If there is no clear source for the sarcoma
SARCOMA RECEIVES LESS THAN 1% OF THE CANCER RESEARCH DOLLAR.
Common symptoms for bone sarcoma can include:
- a swelling or lump, which may or may not be painful and which changes in size
- a pain in the back or limb that appears to have no cause
- unrelieved pain when at rest, particularly at night
- a fracture following a very slight injury
- a limp
- weight loss
Common symptoms for soft tissue sarcoma can include:
- any deep lump
- any lump with a diameter of >5cm
- a small lump which grows, particularly if rapid
- a lump with strange characteristics such as being hard, irregular and/or in a strange place
- a lump where there has been no severe injury
If these symptoms are still there after three weeks, or if you notice any changes in your body, go and see your doctor. They can often be attributed to a sports injury or other causes, but your doctor needs you to explain clearly what symptoms you are having. If you’re worried that your concerns aren’t being taken seriously, keep going back, go and see a different doctor or find someone else to talk to. It may not be a sarcoma, but if it is – the quicker the diagnosis, the better!
On average, there are around 350 diagnoses of sarcoma in Western Australia each year, although some of these are benign tumours. All sarcomas need to be assessed as some benign sarcomas may become malignant over time.
40% of people diagnosed with a sarcoma will not survive 5 years after their diagnosis.
Once a sarcoma has spread from its origin, treatment needs to be more aggressive and the chances of a successful outcome decrease. Quick referral to a specialist multidisciplinary team time is CRUCIAL!