Understanding Sarcoma: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Support

  1. Understanding different types of cancer
  2. Rare cancers
  3. Sarcoma

Sarcoma is a type of cancer that is often misunderstood and overlooked despite its devastating impact on the lives of those who are diagnosed with it. This rare form of cancer accounts for less than 1% of all adult cancers, making it a relatively unknown disease compared to other more common types of cancer. However, for those who are affected by sarcoma, the lack of awareness and understanding can be a major barrier to receiving proper treatment and support. This article will delve into sarcoma, exploring its various types, causes, symptoms, treatment options, and the importance of support for those with this disease.

Whether you are someone who has been diagnosed with sarcoma or simply seeking to learn more about it, this comprehensive guide will provide you with the information you need to understand this complex better and often overlooked cancer. Sarcoma is a type of cancer that affects the connective tissues in the body. It is characterised by abnormal growth of cells in the soft tissues, bones, and cartilage. Although it is considered a rare type of cancer, sarcoma accounts for about 1% of all adult cancers and 15% of all childhood cancers. There are two main types of sarcoma: soft tissue and bone. Soft tissue sarcomas can develop in any body part, including the muscles, fat, blood vessels, nerves, and tendons.

On the other hand, bone sarcomas primarily affect the bones and can occur in any bone in the body. The most common types of bone sarcoma are osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and Ewing sarcoma. The exact cause of sarcoma is not fully understood. However, researchers believe genetic mutations and environmental factors may affect its development. In some cases, genetic syndromes such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome and neurofibromatosis may increase the risk of developing sarcoma. Some common symptoms of sarcoma include a lump or swelling in the affected area, pain or tenderness, difficulty moving or using the affected body part, and unexplained weight loss.

The symptoms may vary depending on the location and type of sarcoma. Treatment options for sarcoma depend on factors such as the type, stage, and location of the cancer. Surgery is often the primary treatment for localised sarcomas, where the tumour is removed along with surrounding healthy tissue. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also be used to shrink tumours before surgery or to destroy any remaining cancer cells after surgery. Targeted therapy, which uses drugs to target specific abnormalities in cancer cells, may also be an option for some types of sarcoma. Early detection and diagnosis are crucial for improving outcomes for sarcoma patients.

Regular physical exams, imaging tests, and biopsies can help detect sarcoma in its early stages when it is most treatable. It is important to seek medical attention if you notice any unusual symptoms or changes in your body. Ongoing research and clinical trials are continuously being conducted to find new treatments and advancements in understanding sarcoma. These efforts have led to the developing of new drugs and treatment approaches that have shown promising results in clinical trials. For those affected by sarcoma, it is essential to have access to support and resources. Patient advocacy groups and online communities provide a safe space for individuals to connect with others going through similar experiences, share information and resources, and find emotional support.

What is Sarcoma?

Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that affects the connective tissues in the body.

It develops in the bones, muscles, fat, blood vessels, or cartilage and can occur in anybody. Sarcomas are often overlooked and misunderstood due to their rarity, with only 1% of all cancer diagnoses being sarcoma. However, it is important to understand this type of cancer as it can be aggressive and requires specialised treatment.


Sarcoma is a type of cancer originating in the mesenchymal cells responsible for forming connective tissue.

These cells can become cancerous and form tumours that can spread to other body parts.

Ongoing Research and Support

Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that affects the connective tissues in the body. While it may not be as well-known as other types of cancer, it is important to understand sarcoma and the ongoing research and support available for those affected by it. Researchers and medical professionals continuously study sarcoma to understand its causes better and develop more effective treatment options. Ongoing research has led to advancements in targeted therapies, immunotherapies, and personalised medicine for sarcoma patients. This means there is hope for improved outcomes and quality of life for those with sarcoma. In addition to ongoing research, many resources are available to support those affected by sarcoma.

These resources include support groups, advocacy organisations, and online communities where individuals can connect with others who are going through a similar experience. These support systems can provide emotional support, practical advice, and a sense of community for patients, caregivers, and loved ones.

Causes of Sarcoma

Sarcoma is a type of cancer that develops in the body's connective tissues, such as bones, muscles, fat, and blood vessels. While the exact cause of sarcoma is still unknown, several factors can increase a person's risk of developing this rare cancer. One of the main risk factors for sarcoma is radiation exposure. This can be from previous radiation therapy for other types of cancer or from environmental factors such as living near a nuclear power plant. Genetic mutations can also play a role in the development of sarcoma.

Certain inherited conditions, such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome and neurofibromatosis, can increase a person's risk of developing sarcoma. Other risk factors for sarcoma include age, as it is more common in older adults and certain lifestyle choices such as smoking and heavy alcohol consumption. However, it's important to note that many people with sarcoma do not have any known risk factors. Risk Factors for Sarcoma:

  • Exposure to radiation
  • Genetic mutations
  • Age (more common in older adults)
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption

Types of Sarcoma

Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that affects the connective tissues in the body. It can occur in any part of the body and can develop in different types. There are two main categories of sarcoma: soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcoma develops in the body's soft tissues, such as muscles, fat, tendons, and blood vessels.

Bone sarcoma, on the other hand, develops in the bone tissue. Within these two categories, there are more than 70 different types of sarcoma. Some of the most common types include:

  • Angiosarcoma: Affects the blood vessels and can occur in any part of the body.
  • Ewing Sarcoma: Usually occurs in bones or soft tissues and is more common in children and young adults.
  • Fibrosarcoma: Develops in fibrous tissues and can occur in any part of the body.
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST): Affects the gastrointestinal tract and is more common in adults.
  • Liposarcoma: Develops in fat cells and can occur in any part of the body.
  • Osteosarcoma: Affects the bones and is more common in children and young adults.
Each type of sarcoma has unique characteristics and can affect different body parts. It is important to understand these differences to diagnose and treat sarcoma properly.

Early Detection and Diagnosis

Early detection and diagnosis are crucial for improving outcomes for sarcoma patients. This is because sarcoma is a rare and aggressive type of cancer that can spread quickly to other parts of the body.

By detecting and diagnosing sarcoma early, treatment options are more effective, and the chances of survival are greatly increased. To detect sarcoma early, individuals need to be aware of any potential symptoms and seek medical attention if they experience persistent pain or unusual growths in their body. Regular check-ups and screenings can also help with early detection, especially for those who have a family history of sarcoma or other types of cancer. Once a potential case of sarcoma is identified, a series of diagnostic tests will be conducted.

These may include imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and biopsies to examine the affected tissue. The earlier the diagnosis, the more effective treatment can prevent cancer from spreading. Overall, early detection and diagnosis are crucial for improving outcomes for sarcoma patients. Individuals need to prioritise the prioritised and seek medical attention if they have any concerns or symptoms related to sarcoma.

With early detection, there is a higher chance of successful treatment and a better quality of life for those affected by this rare type of cancer.

Symptoms of Sarcoma

Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that affects the connective tissues in the body. Due to its rarity, it is often overlooked and misunderstood. It is important to understand the symptoms of sarcoma, as early detection can greatly improve the chances of successful treatment. This section will outline the common symptoms of sarcoma and how they may present in different types.

Pain or swelling in the affected area: One of the most common symptoms of sarcoma is pain or swelling in the affected area. This may be accompanied by a lump or mass that can be felt under the skin.

Bone pain:

In cases where sarcoma affects the bones, pain may be felt in the affected bone or joint. This pain may worsen at night or with physical activity.

Fatigue: Many people with sarcoma experience fatigue and general weakness. This may be due to the body's immune response to the cancer cells.

Unexplained weight loss:

If sarcoma has spread to other body parts, it can cause weight loss even if the person eats normally.

Difficulty breathing or swallowing:

Sarcoma in the chest or abdomen can cause difficulty breathing or swallowing.

This may be due to the tumour pressing against vital organs or airways. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to consult a doctor for further evaluation. Remember that other conditions may also cause these symptoms, so getting a proper diagnosis from a medical professional is important.

Treatment Options

The treatment for sarcoma will depend on the type, location, stage of the cancer, and the patient's overall health. In general, the main treatment options for sarcoma include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. Surgery: This is the most common treatment for sarcoma.

It involves removing the tumour and surrounding tissue to prevent it from spreading to other body parts. Depending on the size and location of the tumour, surgery may be performed using traditional open surgery or minimally invasive techniques. Radiation therapy: This treatment uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours. It is often used in combination with surgery to help prevent the cancer from coming back. Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. It may be used before or after surgery to shrink the tumour or destroy any remaining cancer cells. Targeted therapy: This type of treatment targets specific molecules or pathways involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.

It is often used for sarcomas that have specific genetic mutations. Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy helps the body's immune system fight against cancer by boosting its ability to recognise cancer cells. It is still being studied for its effectiveness in treating sarcoma. While these treatments can effectively treat sarcoma, they have potential side effects. These may include fatigue, nausea, hair loss, and a weakened immune system. Before starting treatment, patients must discuss the potential risks and benefits with their healthcare team. Understanding Sarcoma: It is important to be aware of this rare type of cancer and to understand its different types, causes, symptoms, treatment options, and available support.

Early detection and diagnosis are crucial for successful treatment, and ongoing research is constantly being done to improve treatment methods. If you experience any symptoms or have concerns about your risk for sarcoma, it is important to seek medical attention. Raising awareness about sarcoma is essential in promoting early detection and improving outcomes for those affected by this disease.

Andrew Cooper
Andrew Cooper

Meet Andrew, your cancer and diet advocate at DietAndCancer.co.uk. With a background in oncology and nutrition, he's dedicated to sharing evidence-based research, treatment options, and dietary strategies to support individuals on their cancer journey. Andrew's mission is to provide hope, guidance, and practical advice for those affected by cancer, helping them make informed choices for their well-being.