Yes, you heard it right “forgotten cancer” , that is Sarcoma. Read on to gather valuable insights on what is Sarcoma, and how it affects the common and the elderly population?
Sarcoma is a type of cancer that is rare, and made up of soft tissue. There are various subtypes, as they emerge from different tissue structures like muscles, nerves, bone, blood, fat, joints, or blood vessels that are the connective tissues in the body. Besides, Sarcoma can also crop up in the bones. Primarily, as these tissues are found everywhere in the body, Sarcoma can be found in any place.
Most commonly, Sarcoma is a cancer found in the arms and legs where most of the connective tissues are present. The disease starts very deep in the body that is not identified until a lump is noticed, and cancer may be difficult to treat at this stage. There are two categories of sarcoma – soft tissue and bone sarcoma. In all probability, Sarcoma reasonably affects children and young adults more than the aged population. Bone and joint cancer are found more in teenagers whereas, soft tissue cancer attacks fifty-five years and above.
Specifically, Sarcoma can be grouped as,
- Soft tissue sarcoma – they form in cartilage, muscles, fat, nerves, tendons, vessels, and joint muscles.
- Ewing sarcoma – they form in bone and soft tissue.
- Osteosarcomas – mostly develop in bone, and liposarcomas form in fat.
- Rhabdomyosarcomas – develop in muscle.
The root cause and the development of sarcomas are unknown. After much evaluation, researchers have come up with some hints that may have a role in affecting sarcomas. While the core reason is unknown, there are some known risk factors.
In some cases, phenoxy acetic acid found in herbicides or chlorophenols increases the risk. Angiosarcoma, a rare blood vessel cancer is found to develop due to exposure to vinyl chloride. High exposure to radiation is also a cause of sarcoma in some populations.
Some inherited diseases are also associated with an increase in soft tissue sarcoma.
- Von Recklinghausen’s disease (neurofibromatosis) – is associated with the NF1 gene
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome – associated with alterations in the p53 gene
Research shows alterations in genetic conditions have contributed to the development of sarcomas. It can also affect future generations and may be a random event in the family cancer history.
At substantial times, lumps and bumps found are benign. But, people must be proactive enough to have a consultation to rule out any sarcoma scare. As sarcoma is hard to detect from other types of cancer, they effect the organs where their evidence is underestimated.
A reliable source to determine a malignant, benign, or tumor can be done by a surgical biopsy, where all soft tissues and bone lumps found are taken for biopsy. The procedure involves a special needle used to make an incision and remove a small portion of tumor tissue which is studied under a microscope. If it is positive for cancer, the pathologist assesses the grade and the type of cancer.
Though low-grade sarcomas are cancerous, they are unexpected to proliferate, high-grade sarcomas have a great chance to spread to other parts of the body. The survival rate for five years can be estimated as fifty percent for soft tissue sarcoma, whereas sixty-six percent for bone sarcomas.
The treatment for sarcoma depends on the cancer stage, based on the grade of tumor and size, and whether cancer has advanced to the other parts of the body. The main treatment options include,
Surgery – It is the most common treatment where there is a removal of cancer and a safe margin of healthy tissue surrounding it. Most of the tumor is extracted by surgery, but radiation or chemotherapy is given before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to eliminate leftover cancer cells.
Radiation – It involves high-dose x-rays that are used before surgery to shrink the tumor or post-surgery to do away with the remaining cancer cells.
Chemotherapy – Here, anticancer drugs are used along with radiation therapy either before or after surgery. If cancer cells have already made their way to other parts of the body, chemotherapy is done to shrink tumors and reduce the discomfort and pain caused, but doubtful on the disease elimination.
Chemotherapy has been found effective in preventing its spread where the treatment is done intravenously. Doctors and researchers are continually working to identify new, effective treatments and better ways to utilize the current procedure
Encouraging Awareness for Sarcoma Spread
- As Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer, people are still uninformed about the disease unless it has been affected personally. This July, make an attempt to share a message through social media or discuss the underlying conditions with family and friends.
- To spread awareness on social media, a tag using #curesarcoma #sarcomaawarenessmonth
- Donate in honor of “Sarcoma Awareness Month”
- Be a part of the Race to Cure Sarcoma held in the US, made up of a family-oriented 5k walk/run.
- Get in touch with curesarcoma.org and related social media channels.
The Sarcoma Awareness Month attempts to underline the extensive challenges faced by those affected by Sarcoma, and renders the necessity for a deeper sarcoma research, therapies, and treatment.