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Sarcomas: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About sarcomas

Cancerous condition of the connective tissue is referred to as sarcoma. Sarcoma is a general term coined for all types of connective tissue tumours in the human body. Connective tissues function to provide strength and support to the body tissues, and are found in bones and muscles. Depending on the involvement of particular connective tissue different terms are used like osteosarcoma for cancer of the bone, chondrosarcoma for cancer of the cartilages.

Sarcomas: Incidence, age and sex

Sarcoma is included in the list of orphan diseases (rare diseases) as incidence of this condition is very less. Sarcoma is seen in all age group individuals but its incidence is more in adults than children.

Signs and symptoms of sarcomas: Diagnosis

Signs and symptoms of sarcoma depend on the part of the body involved. ‘Soft tissue sarcoma’ is characterized by cancerous development of connective tissue in the legs, hands or the feet. The patient complains of pain which increases as the tumour size increases. This pain is due to pressure of tumour on surrounding nerves, muscles or the organs. Clinical features of ‘sarcoma of bones’ includes pain, swelling and redness around the tumour. Patients may complain of weight loss, fever and fatigue. Numbness, tingling and paralysis may occur due to nerve compression. In case of gastrointestinal involvement, patient complains of abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, presence of blood in vomiting and stool. Skin involvement is also common in sarcoma leading to formation of skin nodule which is initially small, red to pink in colour and then gradually increases in size.

Surgical biopsy is a very reliable way to diagnose sarcoma. In this procedure, small tissue or fluid of affected part is collected by a surgeon and then investigated microscopically by a pathologist for tumour cells. Other investigation includes bone scan, CT scan, depending upon the site of the tumour.

Causes and prevention of sarcoma

Causes of sarcoma are still unknown. While there are speculations that it might have hereditary origin, exposure to radiation may also be a contributing factor.

Sarcoma: Complications

Complications of sarcoma include internal bleeding, gastrointestinal bleeding, anaemia, paralysis, bone fracture and in occasional cases, death.

Sarcoma: Treatment

The primary treatment of sarcomas consists of surgical resection of the tumour which is usually aided with chemotherapy prior to surgery. Radiotherapy is also recommended before after surgery and it uses high energy rays to shrink the tumour. Chemotherapy is more successful in bone and muscle tumours and usually ineffective in soft tissue sarcoma. Regular monitoring of the affected individual is advised, to detect any spread or recurrence of the sarcoma.