July is National Sarcoma Awareness Month
Written By: Dr. Carolina Fasola, MD
July is National Sarcoma Awareness Month. Sarcomas are tumors of connective tissue originating from muscles, nerves, fat, joints, bone, cartilage and/or blood vessels. They may arise from anywhere in the body, but most arise in the arms or legs. Sarcomas account for 1% of all adult cancers and 15% of all childhood cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates about 12,390 soft tissue sarcomas will be diagnosed in the United States in 2017. It is important to raise awareness on sarcomas as they are rare tumors often difficult to detect or diagnosed at more advanced stages.
Treatment usually involves surgery by an orthopedic oncologist, and is often followed by radiation therapy to reduce the risk of a local recurrence, particularly in cases of high grade histology, close or positive margins and/or large tumor size. Radiation can be directed at the surgical cavity with appropriate margin to target any microscopic sarcoma tumor cells that may remain following surgical removal of the tumor.
Radiation may also be given prior to surgery to the intact sarcoma tumor with the purpose of reducing the size of the tumor and/or shrinking the tumor off critical structures (not involved by tumor) such as nerves, joints, bone and blood vessels, which may help simplify the surgical resection required to remove the tumor and increase the chance for negative margins at surgery. Delivering radiation prior to surgery allows for smaller radiation treatment fields and lower doses with excellent local control of tumor and lower risk of long-term functional complications. Additionally, new technology and software allow for more precise delivery of radiation allowing sparing of normal nearby organs such as bone and joints reducing the risk of fracture in the future. Most courses of radiation require 5-7 weeks of daily 15 minute visits scheduled 5 times a week.
Systemic therapy with chemotherapy agents or new immunotherapy agents may also be recommended for treatment by a medical oncologist. SERO plays an important role in sarcoma multidisciplinary conference offered on a weekly basis where sarcoma specialists consisting of our radiation oncologists, orthopedic oncologists, medical oncologists, musculoskeletal radiologists, pathologists, genetic counselors and support staff convene to discuss and review challenging sarcoma cases from the community. We participate in clinical trials open for patients with sarcoma tumors.
While many new lumps or bumps are often benign, it is important to seek medical attention in case it is sarcoma. If diagnosed with a sarcoma, we strongly recommend you consult a sarcoma specialist given the rarity of this disease.