Sarcoma is a cancer of the connective tissue. It is a rare kind of cancer as the cells in the connective tissue support or connects most other kinds of tissues in your body.
There are mainly two major types of sarcomas: soft tissue sarcomas and osteosarcomas. Soft tissue carcinoma is found is most commonly found in muscles, tendons, nerves, cartilage, fat and blood vessels in your arms and legs and osteosarcoma is mainly found in the bone tissues.
Does Sarcoma Spread Quickly?
As the Sarcoma’s are cancer that infects the connective tissues, they tend to spread rather quickly as compared to the other kinds of cancer. The rate of the disease progression also depends on what stage was the tumor detected. Mainly the sarcomas are classified into four stages of development. The first stage is when the cancer is barely showing symptoms and the tumor is small in size and operable. Stages 2 and 3 are when the cancer becomes symptomatic and the disease progresses and spreads to other body tissues rather quickly. The final stage 4 is when the tumor has already spread to distant parts of the body and surgery alone is no longer a clinically viable option. For most patients the disease rapidly progresses from stage 1 to 4 in a span of five years and so the early on the tumor is detected and the treatment is started, the sooner the disease progression can be halted.
How Can You Tell If You Have Sarcoma?
Soft tissue sarcomas are difficult to spot due to wide variety of their location in the body. Most often, the first thing a patient may spot is a small painless lump in any soft tissue. This lump gradually grows in size as the time progresses and eventually it starts pressing against your muscles and nerves. This triggers feelings of discomfort, pain and may cause you to have difficulty breathing. As the disease slowly creeps up on you, there are not many tests to be done early on in the disease. Typically, you consult your physician when you start displaying physical symptoms and based on what you report, you may need a biopsy (collecting a sample of cells from the tissue being suspected of the tumor) or an imaging tests (such as CT scan, MRI or ultrasound to better visualize the suspected tissues).
Osteosarcomas are more likely to develop early symptoms as they directly affect the bone tissue. Some of these symptoms include sporadic pain in the concerned bone, which is usually much worse in the night, gradual progress to inflammation in the bone after a few weeks of the start of the pain symptom and eventually developing a limp if the bones in the leg are impacted. This kind of tumor is more common in children to teenagers as opposed to adults and so it often confused with growing pains. One way to tell if the pain is due to something more serious than just growing pains if the pain is only located in one leg, if it gets worse at night and if it does not improve after several weeks. Once you consult your physician with suspected symptoms of osteosarcoma, you will typically refer to undergo a bone scan to study the concerned bone tissue.
How Is Sarcoma Treated?
The treatment of Sarcoma depends on the type and location of your tumor. In most cases, surgery is the most preferred option to take out the infected tumor tissue. In case your tumor has spread to other body parts or metastasized, you may need radiation to reduce the size of the tumor, so it is clinically feasible to operate. You may also need chemotherapy after surgery to kill the cancer cells that survived after the surgery. If the location of the tumor is not operable, the patients may be started on chemotherapy as their main treatment along with systemic immunomodulatory therapy. Your prognosis is generally more positive if the tumor is detected early on, if the location of the tumor is surgically operable and if the tumor has not spread to other places in your body.