More than 13,000 Americans will fall ill due to sarcoma this year. The five-year survival rate for sarcoma is 65.4%, making it one of the deadliest cancers.
Sarcoma is scary, yet it is also possible to manage. You can take the first steps toward caring for yourself by getting the facts about sarcoma.
What is sarcoma exactly? What are the signs that you have it? What treatment options should you pursue?
Answer these questions and you can live a full life before, during, and after sarcoma. Here is your quick guide.
The Basics of Sarcoma
Sarcoma is one of many types of cancer. It is distinct from other types because sarcoma cancer cells grow in the connective tissues in a person’s body. These are tissues that connect body parts together and protect them from damage.
Sarcoma can develop inside blood vessels, fat, and muscles. On rare occasions, they can grow inside nerves, joint linings, and tendons. Sarcomas can also grow inside the bones, though these sarcomas are extremely rare.
Keep in mind that each type of sarcoma is different. If you are diagnosed with a particular sarcoma, you should do research on that type to get more specific information.
Sarcoma Signs and Symptoms
Sarcoma can be hard to notice at first because cells can grow inside deep tissue. Some people notice a lump on their skin, but the lump is painless. They may mistake the lump for a pimple or a goosebump.
As time goes on, the lump gets bigger. It can press against nerves and muscles, causing pain and stiffness. Sarcoma in the abdomen can cause abdominal pain and weight loss.
Sarcoma in the bones can cause extreme pain. Cells can cause bones to fracture, sometimes without any apparent cause. This may be the first sign that you have sarcoma in your bones.
As sarcoma reaches its late stages, blood may appear in your stool or vomit. You may also pass black and sticky stools, which may be difficult to pass from your body.
These cancer signs can overlap with other conditions, including other forms of cancer. Most people are not aware that they have sarcoma until they get screenings for it.
Anyone can develop sarcoma. But people are at higher risk for it if they have a family history of sarcoma and cancer.
Certain disorders also put you at higher risk. Paget’s disease is a bone disease that interferes with how the bones recycle old tissue. A person’s bones can become fragile and old cells can mutate, increasing the likelihood of sarcoma.
Genetic disorders can cause cell mutations and affect their ability to reproduce. Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder that affects the nervous system and leads to tumors growing on nerves.
Exposure to chemicals and viruses can also cause sarcoma. A 2021 meta-analysis of 50 studies finds that exposure to herbicides and vinyl chloride produces a higher risk of sarcoma. Human herpesvirus 8 can cause Kaposi’s sarcoma.
Exposure to radiation can lead to sarcoma, though exposure needs to be continuous. Getting an X-ray or flying on an airplane will not lead to sarcoma.
It is difficult to prevent sarcoma due to how many risk factors there are. Maintaining a healthy weight and an active lifestyle can help. You can get genetic tests to see if you have disorders that can lead to sarcoma.
The first step toward treatment is to get a diagnosis of sarcoma. If you have extreme abdominal pain or other prominent cancer symptoms, you should go to your doctor.
Your doctor may perform a physical exam so they can understand what your symptoms are. They may ask you questions about your symptoms and ask you to perform physical tests.
If they think you may have sarcoma, they may conduct imaging tests. X-rays help them see hard structures like your bones while MRIs can create images of your connective tissues.
Your doctor can also conduct a biopsy. They will remove a lump from your skin or another piece of suspicious tissue and send it to a lab. Techniques can then determine if you have cancer cells in your system and what type of sarcoma you may have.
Biopsy procedures depend on where the suspicious tissue is. Your doctor can stick a needle through your skin, or a surgeon can remove the tissue in an operation.
In general, treatment for sarcoma is similar to treatment for other forms of cancer. You may need surgery to remove your cancer cells. Some cases of sarcoma require amputation, especially for bone problems, but amputation is rare.
Radiation therapy relies on high-powered energy beams to destroy cancer cells. You can receive it to destroy cells that are deep in your connective tissue.
During chemotherapy, you receive drugs and medicines to kill cancer cells. The drugs can also make tumors smaller and destroy cells that may be hidden in other parts of your body. Chemotherapy can have side effects, including fatigue and digestive problems.
You need to take steps to improve your overall health as well. You should eat at least three full meals a day and try to get exercise to build your muscles and bones. You can get help from a nutritional support professional so you can develop the meals you need.
So What Is Sarcoma?
Many people have questions about cancer. What is sarcoma? It is a type of cancer that occurs in soft tissue, including connective tissue.
What are the signs of sarcoma? Sarcoma can cause bumps on the skin, muscle pain, and abdominal pain. A doctor cannot diagnose sarcoma based on symptoms alone.
How can you start treatment? After your diagnosis, you can get surgery and radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells. You can then focus on keeping your overall health up.
Get all the help you need to fight cancer. Blue Sky MD serves North Carolina residents. Contact us today.