About Sarcoma

Conditions, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

A medical imaging technician examines a patient for sarcoma.Sarcoma is cancer of soft tissue (such as muscle, fat, or nerves), connective tissue (such as tendon or cartilage), or bone. There are hundreds of kinds of sarcomas. Here are some of them.

Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma and and malignant fibrous histiocytoma (MFH) are tumors that originate in the bones. While bone cancer is rare, osteosarcoma is the most common type of cancer to develop in bone. Most osteosarcomas occur in children and young adults, but they can arise at any age.

Primary bone cancer is rare, accounting for much less than 1 percent of all new cancers diagnosed. “Primary” means that the tumor is the original site, not metastatic (that is, not spread from a different tissue or organ).

There are no known measures that individuals can take to prevent bone cancer, nor is there preventive screening. Past treatment with radiation therapy or with particular cancer-fighting drugs are risk factors associated with osteosarcoma. Having certain conditions such as Paget disease or Bloom syndrome may also increase a person’s risk.

Signs and symptoms of osteosarcoma and MFH include swelling over a bone or a bony part of the body, often the knee or the upper arm, and joint pain.

Osteosarcoma is diagnosed through x-ray, MRI, and CT scans, as well as biopsy.

Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and other therapies are used to treat osteosarcoma. A variety of factors help determine treatment options and prognosis. Discuss treatments, goals, and potential side effects with your cancer care team.

Ewing Sarcoma

Ewing sarcoma is a rare type of cancerous tumor that grows in bones or the soft tissue around bones. Ewing sarcoma is most common in children and young adults.

It often starts in the legs, bones of the pelvis, and arms. It can also be found in the bones of the chest, spine, or skull. Tumors may originate in the soft tissue of the trunk, arms, legs, head and neck, abdominal cavity, and other areas.

Signs and symptoms include pain or swelling, a lump that may feel soft or warm, and a fever not related to a cold or the flu. A bone that breaks for no apparent reason is a sign of osteosarcoma.

Diagnostic tools include MRI, CT scans, PET scans, and biopsy (collection and examination of a tissue sample).

Treatment options for Ewing sarcoma include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell rescue. A variety of factors help determine treatment options and prognosis. Discuss treatments, goals, and potential side effects with your cancer care team.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcoma is a cancerous tumor that develops in soft tissues like fat, muscle, nerves, tendons, or blood vessels. Sarcomas most often occur in the arms or legs, but can develop in any part of the body.

The cause of most soft tissue sarcomas is unknown, but researchers have identified some risk factors that can make an individual more susceptible. While most develop in people who have no obvious risk factors, DNA mutations (defects) are common in soft tissue sarcoma. These may result from exposure to radiation or cancer-causing chemicals.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there are no known steps individuals can take to prevent soft tissue sarcoma, nor is preventive screening available.

A painless lump under the skin, often on an arm or a leg, may be a sarcoma. Sarcomas that begin in the abdominal cavity may not cause signs or symptoms until they become very large. When the tumor starts to press on nearby organs, nerves, muscles, or blood vessels, the patient may experience pain or trouble breathing.

Soft tissue sarcomas are diagnosed with a biopsy (the collection and examination of a tissue sample).

Treatment requires surgery and can include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or targeted therapy. A variety of factors help determine treatment options and prognosis. Discuss treatments, goals, and potential side effects with your cancer care team.

Uterine Sarcoma

Uterine sarcoma is a very rare disease in which cancer cells form in the muscles of the uterus or other tissues that support the uterus.

Previous radiation therapy of the pelvic area or treatment with tamoxifen for breast cancer are risk factors.

Signs and symptoms include abnormal bleeding (unrelated to the menstrual cycle, or after menopause), a mass in the vagina, or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen.

Among the diagnostic steps are a pelvic exam, a Pap test, and an ultrasound exam that uses a probe to create images of the reproductive organs and bladder.

Treatment may include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. A variety of factors help determine treatment options and prognosis. Discuss treatments, goals, and potential side effects with your cancer care team.