Sarcomas are malignant connective tissue cancers

Sarcoma is a type of cancer. Sarcomas are not as common as other well-known cancer types, and more than 70 different sarcoma subtypes have been described. These cancers arise from connective tissue—the tissue that makes up the structure of the body. Sarcomas can develop in bones, cartilage, muscles, nerves, and other types of connective tissue, and can occur anywhere in the body.

Where does sarcoma come from

The word “sarcoma” comes from a Greek word meaning “sarcoma.” Sarcomas arise from mesenchymal tissue. This tissue is the precursor to the body’s connective tissue. Some of the more common types of sarcoma include:

  • Osteosarcoma (a type of bone cancer)
  • liposarcoma (adipose tissue cancer)
  • chondrosarcoma (carcinoma of chondrocytes)
  • Angiosarcoma (cancer of blood vessels)

Some risk factors make people more likely to develop cancer. These include disorders such as Paget’s disease and neurofibromatosis and a family history of sarcoma. Additionally, exposure to radiation, such as to treat another type of cancer, increases the risk of developing sarcoma.

READ ALSO:  Gynecomastia Overview

Carcinomas and Sarcomas

Most people are more familiar with cancer, which occurs in organs such as the lungs, breasts, and colon. Carcinomas are cancers that develop in epithelial cells, the cells that cover internal organs and the outer surfaces of the body.

Sarcomas are cancers that develop in mesenchymal cells, the cells that make up bones and soft tissues such as muscles, tendons, and blood vessels.

A major difference between sarcomas and carcinomas is the way these cancers spread in the body. Sarcomas tend to spread through the blood, usually to the lungs. Cancers tend to spread through the lymph and blood, most commonly nearby lymph nodes, liver, and bones, but they can also spread to the lungs.

As mentioned earlier, carcinomas are more common than sarcomas. Carcinomas account for about 90% of all cancers, and sarcomas account for about 1%. Sarcomas tend to occur in two distinct age groups: very young and old.

READ ALSO:  Breast cancer specialists: who they are and what they do

Sarcomas usually grow in a spherical shape and begin to cause pain when they compress nearby structures. One of the characteristic symptoms of sarcoma is nighttime pain that usually keeps people awake or wakes them from sleep. The diagnosis of sarcoma requires obtaining a sample of abnormal tissue, called a biopsy. A biopsy will allow your healthcare provider to determine the type of sarcoma and see how aggressive the tumor is. This information is important to help guide the most appropriate treatment.

Sarcoma Treatment

Treatment for sarcoma depends on many factors, including:

  • Types of Sarcomas
  • The grade of the tumor (high or low grade)
  • If the tumor has spread (metastasized)

Sarcomas can usually be treated with surgery to remove the mass, and sometimes it can be cured if the tumor has not spread. In more aggressive (high-grade) tumors, or in tumors that have spread, additional treatment is often required. This may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or both. Often, for larger tumors, chemotherapy before surgical removal can be an effective way to reduce tumor size and make surgery easier.