What is Sarcoma?

Dr Foram Bhuta

Dr Foram Bhuta

BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery), 10 years of experience

October 30, 2021 Cancer Hub 352 Views

English हिन्दी Bengali

What is the meaning of Sarcoma?

Sarcoma is a term used for a broad group of cancers beginning in the connective tissue, that is, the bones, cartilage, or muscles.

Sarcomas can be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Although malignant sarcoma is very rare.

Most cases of sarcoma are seen in the lower extremities. They can also be seen in the upper extremities, chest, abdominal (stomach) area, head, and neck region.

In this article, we will be discussing in detail about sarcoma.

  • What are the different types of Sarcoma?
  • What are the causes of Sarcoma?
  • What are the risk factors of Sarcoma?
  • What are the symptoms of Sarcoma?
  • How to diagnose Sarcoma?
  • What are the treatments for Sarcoma?
  • What are the complications of Sarcoma Treatment?
  • How to prevent Sarcoma?
  • What is the cost of Sarcoma Treatment in India?

What are the different types of Sarcoma?

The two main types of sarcomas are soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma. These are further divided into the following types:

  • Soft tissue sarcoma: The different types of soft tissue sarcoma include:
  • Angiosarcoma: This type commonly affects the lymph vessels or the blood.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor: This type commonly affects the neuromuscular cells of the gut.
  • Leiomyosarcoma: This type commonly affects the smooth muscles in the walls of an organ, like the abdomen (stomach).
  • Liposarcoma: This type of sarcoma is seen in the fat tissue. It often starts in the thigh, at the back of the abdomen, or behind the knee.
  • Neurofibrosarcoma: This type of sarcoma affects the protective lining of the nerves.
  • Synovial sarcoma: This is a tumor of the stem cells. A cancerous tissue formation may occur around the joints.
  • Fibrosarcomas: This type of sarcoma can affect the fibroblasts, which are the cells present in the connective tissue.
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma: This type of sarcoma formation is seen in the skeletal muscle.
  • Myxofibrosarcoma: This type of sarcoma affects the connective tissue, and is often seen in the legs and arms of older adults.
  • Vascular sarcoma: This type of sarcoma is seen in the blood vessels.
  • Mesenchymomas: This is a rare type of sarcoma, and it combines the elements of other sarcomas. They can develop in any part of the body.
  • Schwannoma: This type of sarcoma affects the tissues covering the nerves.
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma: This type of sarcoma normally affects the skin, but can develop in other tissues as well. It occurs due to a virus, known as human herpesvirus 8.

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  • Sarcoma of bone:
  • Osteosarcoma: This type of sarcoma affects the bone.
  • Chondrosarcoma: This type of sarcoma begins in the cartilage.
  • Ewing sarcoma: This type of sarcoma can occur in the soft tissue or bone.
  • Fibrosarcoma: This type of sarcoma occurs in the fibrogenic tissue (a type of connective tissue).

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What are the causes of Sarcoma?

  • The exact cause of Sarcoma is unknown.
  • It usually occurs when mutations (changes) take place in the DNA within the cells.
  • These mutations lead the cells to grow and divide uncontrollably.
  • The accumulation of these cells can result in the formation of a tumor.
  • These cells can break away and metastasize (spread) to the other parts of the body.

What are the risk factors of Sarcoma?

Some factors increase the risk of developing sarcoma. These factors include:

  • Inherited syndromes like neurofibromatosis type 1 (characterized by the presence of light brown spots on the skin known as café-au-lait spots) and familial retinoblastoma (family history of an eye cancer beginning in the back of the eye or retina)
  • Exposure to high doses of radiation
  • Exposure to chemicals, like herbicides and industrial chemicals
  • Lymphedema (swelling caused due to backup of lymph fluid that occurs when the lymphatic system is damaged or blocked)
  • Exposure to viruses like the human herpesvirus 8, that leads to Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • Weakened immune system
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

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What are the symptoms of Sarcoma?

The symptoms of Sarcoma include:

  • Bone pain
  • A lump felt through the skin, which may or may not be painful
  • Abdominal (stomach pain)
  • Weight loss
  • A fragile bone that may break unexpectedly, due to no injury or a minor injury

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How to diagnose Sarcoma?

  • Physical examination: The doctor will first physically examine the patient. The symptoms of the patient are noted, along with the patient’s medical history and family history.
  • X-ray: An x-ray helps in checking for the presence of any abnormal growths on the bones.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: It is an imaging test in which many X-ray images are combined and clear cross-sectional images of the internal organs of the body are obtained using a computer.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: A large magnet, radio waves, and a computer are used in this imaging test to create clear images of the internal parts of the body.
  • Bone scan: In this procedure, a small amount of radioactive material is injected into the body for the identification of certain bone disorders, like cancer.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: This is an imaging test in which a special glucose tracer is used. This tracer is concentrated in the area having cancer cells and these areas appear more prominently in the scan, suggesting the presence of a tumor.
  • Biopsy: The doctor removes a small part of the suspected tissue growth and sends it to the laboratory to check for the presence of cancer cells, and their types.

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What are the treatments for Sarcoma?

The treatment of sarcoma depends on the type of sarcoma, the stage of cancer, its location, whether cancer has spread to the other parts of the body, and the overall health of the patient.

The various treatment options for sarcoma are:

Surgery:

    • Surgery is the most common form of treatment for sarcoma.
    • The goal of surgery is to remove all the cancer cells that cause sarcoma.
    • Sometimes, amputation of the arm or leg may be required to remove cancer completely, but the surgeon tries to preserve the function of the limb as much as possible.
    • It is sometimes not possible to remove all of cancer without damaging the nearby vital structures like the nerves or the organs. In such cases, the surgeon tries to remove as much sarcoma as possible.

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Radiation therapy:

    • In this procedure, high-powered energy beams, such as x-rays and protons, are used for killing cancer cells.
    • The therapy can be provided through external beam radiation, that is, radiation is emitted from a machine that revolves around the body, or by brachytherapy, that is, when radiation is placed in the body temporarily.
    • Radiation may also be used during an operation for the removal of cancer. This is known as intraoperative radiation.


Chemotherapy:

    • Chemotherapy is a form of drug treatment done to kill cancer cells.

Targeted therapy:

    • It is a form of drug treatment that uses medications that attack specific weaknesses in the cancer cells.
    • This helps in killing the cancer cells.

Immunotherapy:

    • It is a form of drug treatment that boosts the immune (disease-fighting) system of the body to fight cancer.

Ablation therapy:

    • It is a form of treatment done to kill the cancer cells by the application of electricity to heat the cells, high-frequency ultrasound waves, or by using extremely cold liquid to freeze the cancer cells.

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What are the complications of Sarcoma Treatment?

The various complications associated with the different sarcoma treatments are:

  • Pain
  • Swelling (edema)
  • Fatigue
  • Low red blood cell and white blood cell count
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Infertility
  • Numbness, pain, and tingling sensation due to damage to the nerves (called peripheral neuropathy)
  • Headaches
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Sleep disorders
  • Hair loss
  • Blood clot formation
  • Bleeding
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Skin reactions
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Bony fractures
  • Lymphedema

If you notice any of the above complications after sarcoma treatment, contact your doctor.

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How to prevent Sarcoma?

Sarcoma can be prevented by:

  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation
  • Avoid exposure to chemicals like herbicides and dioxin
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain your weight
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit alcohol consumption

What is the cost of Sarcoma Treatment in India?

The total cost of sarcoma treatment in India can range from around INR 3,00,000 to INR 6,00,000. However, the cost of the procedure may vary across different hospitals. There are many big hospitals and specialized doctors in India for sarcoma treatment. The cost varies across different hospitals. 

If you are coming from abroad, in addition to the expenses of sarcoma treatment, there will be a cost of staying in a hotel, cost of living, and cost of local travel. Apart from this, after the procedure, the patient is kept in hospital for 5 days and in the hotel for 15 days for recovery. So, the total cost of sarcoma treatment in India comes to be around INR 3,90,000 to INR 7,00,000.

We hope that we could answer all your questions regarding sarcoma through this article.

If you need more information about sarcoma and its treatment, you can contact the Surgical Oncologist

We only aim to give you information through the article. We do not recommend medication, treatment in any way. Only a doctor can give you the best advice and correct treatment plan. 

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