5 Important Facts to Know About Sarcoma
July is Sarcoma Awareness Month. Oftentimes, sarcoma is called the “forgotten cancer” because of its rarity. A sarcoma is a cancerous tumor that can be found virtually anywhere in the body, but generally starts in the bones, muscles, tendons, connective tissues, or blood and fat vessels in the extremities. There are two main types of sarcoma (soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma) and over 50 different subtypes. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2020 the United States will see over 13,000 new diagnoses of soft tissue sarcoma and over 5,000 deaths will occur. Knowing the risk factors and symptoms associated with sarcoma can help with early detection and treatment. The HEADstrong Foundation is sharing 5 important facts about sarcoma you should know.
They can develop anywhere
While it’s most commonly found in the arms and legs (50-60% of cases), a sarcoma tumor can grow anywhere in the body. Other common areas they are found are hands, head, neck, chest, shoulders, abdomen, and hips.
More common in children
Adult sarcoma cases are rare and make up only 1% of all adult cancer diagnoses. More common in children, every year the United States estimates that between 1,500 to 1,700 children will be diagnosed with sarcoma. This accounts for about 15% of cancers in children under the age of 20.
The cause is unknown
Because this type of cancer is so rare, the cause is relatively unknown. Many scientists believe that there are certain factors that can increase your risk including:
- Family history of sarcoma
- Being diagnosed with Paget’s disease (a bone disorder)
- Genetic disorders like neurofibromatosis, Gardner syndrome, retinoblastoma or Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- Being exposed to radiation from another cancer
Can be difficult to detect
Sarcoma has over 50 different subtypes that can form in multiple locations. This makes detection quite difficult and misdiagnosis is common. In the early stages of soft tissue sarcoma, there are rarely any symptoms besides a painless lump. Detection goes unnoticed until the lump grows and presses on nerves or muscles, which can cause discomfort, swelling, and pain.
Many doctors have never treated a patient with sarcoma.
Because of the rarity of sarcoma, many doctors have little to no experience in treating this disease. If you’ve been diagnosed, it’s best to get a second opinion and a treatment plan from a doctor who specializes in this rare form of cancer.
Sarcoma awareness is especially important because of the severity of this type of cancer. It oftentimes presents itself with little to no symptoms at all, making it more deadly than other cancers. Knowing all the facts about sarcoma can help you recognize the symptoms early, making the rate of survival between 60%-80%. Treatments vary depending on which area of the body is affected, but generally, the cancer cells can be surgically removed.
At The HEADstrong Foundation, our mission is to improve lives affected by cancer, which includes informing you and sharing awareness to allow for the most immediate life-saving treatment should the need occur. To learn more about what we do and our cancer foundation that you can donate to, visit our website.