What You Need To Know About Sarcoma
This rare type of cancer occurs when malignant cells grow rapidly in the connective tissues of the body causing growth of tumours. They attack any part of the body from the inside out, mostly the legs, arms and trunk. It can develop in the nerves, bone tissues, cartilage, fatty tissues and even blood vessels.
Types of Sarcoma
There are more than 50 types of this cancer, but the main types are Bone Sarcoma and Soft Tissue Sarcoma.
- Bone Sarcomas: This is a rare type of sarcoma that starts in the bones. It can also be referred to as primary bone cancer and is divided into 4 types which are as follows, starting with the most common and ending with the least common:
a) Chondrosarcoma: This type of bone sarcoma develops in the cells of the cartilage and is more common in adults over 40 years. The parts most affected by this kind of cancer include the thigh bones, upper arms and the pelvis.
b) Osteosarcoma: Osteosarcoma mostly affects young people but that does not necessarily mean it cannot affect older people. It attacks the knees, upper arm and thigh bone.
c) Ewing’s Sarcoma: This type affects the shin bone, thigh bone and pelvis and is common in young people and teenagers. It can also fall under the soft tissue sarcoma category because at times it attacks the soft tissues. Ewing’s Sarcoma can also develop beneath the skin.
d) Chordoma: This is the least common type of Bone Sarcoma affecting mostly adults in their 40s and 50s. It mostly starts in the sacrum, that is, the bottom of the spine but can at times begin in other parts of the spine or the base of the skull.
2. Soft Tissue Sarcoma:The other main type of sarcoma is the Soft Tissue Sarcoma which develops in the soft tissues of any part of the body. The different types of Soft Tissue Sarcoma are:
3. Gynaecological Sarcomas: These Soft Tissue Sarcomas occur in the female reproductive system and affect the fallopian tubes, the ovaries uterus, vagina and the vulva.
4. Gastrointestinal Tract (GIST) Sarcomas: This type develops in the gastrointestinal tract- the tube that runs from the mouth to the anus.
5. Retroperitoneal Sarcomas: They occur behind the lining that covers the abdominal organs (Peritoneum).
Symptoms of Sarcoma
The symptoms for Sarcoma vary depending on factors like where the tumours are located and their size.
Bone Sarcoma Signs and Symptoms
- Having a swelling or lump in the affected area
- Weakening of the bone which makes it easy to get fractures
- Restricted joint movement
- Pain in the bones
- Unintentional Weight loss
Soft Tissue Sarcoma Signs and Symptoms
- Growth of a lump in the soft tissue under the skin
- Black stool caused by bleeding in the stomach or bowels
- Pain in the abdomen that gets worse with time
- Presence of blood in the stool or vomit
- Unintentional weight loss
Causes/ Factors leading to Sarcoma
Just like most cancers, the exact causes for Sarcoma are not known but the following are some factors that may lead to a person getting the disease:
- Family history: If people in your family has had sarcoma, it may increase your chances of getting the disease
- Exposure to radiation: Being exposed to radiation, for example during other cancer treatments, can increase one’s chances of getting sarcom.
- Genetic disorder: Genes are responsible for cell growth and death. When these genes are affected, they may bring about sarcoma development in a specific area
- Paget’s disease: This disease interferes with the body’s normal recycling process
- Exposure to certain chemicals like herbicides
Diagnosis of Sarcoma
- Clinical or physical examination: The doctor examines the lump or swelling.
- Scans: ultrasound, X-rays, MRI, CT PET, EUS scans are used. MRI scans provide more detailed pictures of the affected areas than CT scans.
- Bone Scans: These are used specifically for Bone Sarcomas.
- Biopsy: This involves taking a sample of the tissue affected and looking at it under a microscope to check whether it has any cancer cells. This check is necessary because not all tumours are cancerous.
Before starting a treatment, it is important to consider factors such as whether you wish to have children, your age, and your overall health. Here are some of the gall bladder and bile duct cancer treatment options:
- Surgery:Surgery: This is done to remove the tumour and some of the bone tissue surrounding the tumour but not all the cancer can be removed so the surgery is followed by other treatment options.
- Chemotherapy: This involves injecting drugs into the body through the veins to destroy cancer cells.
- Radiotherapy: This involves the use of high- energy waves to kill cancer cells. It can be done to relieve pain, cure or make the tumour smaller.
- Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy: can be combined to treat cancer in a process called Chemoradiation.
- Targeted Therapy: This treatment aims to administer medicine to block the growth of cancer cells without interfering with the normal cells.
- Immunotherapy: This relatively new method of treating cancer involves using drugs to make the immune system aware of the cancer cells present in the body and to fight them.
Prevention of Sarcoma
Preventing sarcoma cancer is difficult because there are no clearly known ways to prevent it. However, one can:
- Avoid risk factors that increase their chances of getting the diseases, for example avoiding exposure to herbicides.
- Change one’s lifestyle by ensuring a healthy diet and remaining active by doing exercises.
- Undergoing regular check- ups, especially if your risk of getting sarcoma is high.