July is Sarcoma Awareness Month, a time to educate the public about sarcoma cancer and the symptoms to be on the lookout for.
Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that grows in the connective tissue or the cells that connect and support other tissues throughout the body. Most commonly, sarcoma tumors form in the bones, muscles, tendons, nerves, cartilage, fat, and blood vessels in the arms and legs.
Symptoms of Sarcoma
There are more than 70 types of sarcoma, but they can be grouped into two main varieties: soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma. Some of the most common signs and symptoms for all types of sarcoma include:
● A lump that is felt through the skin; it may or may not be painful
● An unexpected broken bone that occurs due to a minor injury or no injury
● Uncomfortable swelling, especially in the arms or legs
● Bone pain
● Abdominal pain
● Unintended weight loss
● Black or bloody stools
Risk Factors of Sarcoma
Like other cancer varieties, various risk factors can leave you more likely to develop sarcoma in your lifetime, such as:
● Inherited syndromes – Some syndromes passed from parents to children can increase the risk for sarcomas, such as familial retinoblastoma and neurofibromatosis type 1.
● Damage or swelling in the lymph system – Lymphedema, or chronic swelling, is caused by the backup of lymph fluid in the lymphatic system. This or other damage in the lymphatic system can lead to sarcoma.
● Radiation therapy for cancer – Radiation treatments for cancer types can increase the risk of later developing sarcoma.
● Exposure to viruses – Coming in contact with viruses such as herpesvirus 8, if you have a weakened immune system, increases the sarcoma cancer risk.
● Exposure to chemicals – Exposure to industrial chemicals and herbicides can cause sarcoma tumors to grow in the liver.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should consult your doctor to receive the appropriate screenings and tests to get an accurate diagnosis. To diagnose sarcoma, your doctor will likely:
● Perform a biopsy by taking a sample of cells directly from the tumor.
● Take imaging tests such as CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI to get an accurate visual of inside the
● Conduct a bone scan if the symptoms are more indicative of osteosarcoma.