Sarcoma is a rare cancer — accounting for just 1 percent of adult cancers — and it arises from the tissues that glue the body together — bone, muscle, fat, tendons, blood vessels, lymph vessels, nerves and joint tissue.
Sarcomas usually occur in the extremities, abdomen and trunk. About half of sarcomas occur in arms and legs and about 20 percent develop in the abdomen or trunk. Because the body has these tissues everywhere, sarcomas can occur anywhere, and can take many forms. Superficial sarcomas lie within or directly underneath the skin. Others develop deep within the muscle, the chest or abdomen. The tumor may be as small as a pea (1 centimeter) to as large as a beach ball (40 centimeters).
More than 50 subtypes of sarcoma are currently recognized. Each tumor subtype displays a unique behavior, has a unique biology and requires a unique treatment — making it important to seek personalized care from physicians who specialize in sarcoma. The RPCI sarcoma team diagnoses and treats:
Most physicians, including surgeons will see only one or two patients with a sarcoma in their entire career. Our sarcoma team handles more than 200 patients a year, dedicating each day to the care of patients with soft tissue sarcoma.
Our treatment approach to sarcoma has three goals:
A risk factor is anything that may increase your risk for a disease. Risk factors for soft tissue sarcoma include:
Having certain inherited disorders may increase your risk for sarcoma, including the following:
Sarcomas are often first noticed as an odd lump or swelling under the skin, which may or may not be painful. They do not have a precancerous phase or show early warning signs. No screening test yet exists to detect sarcoma early. Many are detected incidentally, during testing or scans performed for other conditions or symptoms. Sarcoma that begins in the abdomen may not cause any symptoms until it grows larger and presses on nearby organs, blood vessels and nerves. Then, the sarcoma may cause: