July is Sarcoma Awareness Month. Sarcoma is often referred to as the “forgotten cancer”, which is why it is extremely important to raise awareness of this type of cancer.
Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer. Sarcoma develops in the bones and in the body’s soft tissues (also called “connective tissues”). The soft tissues are a variety of tissue structures that connect, support, and surround other body structures. These tissues include, muscle, fat, blood vessels, nerves, tendons, and joints.
Sarcomas are divided into two main groups, bone sarcomas and soft tissue sarcomas. There are more than 70 types of sarcomas, which treatment can vary depending on sarcoma type and location.
A lump that can be felt through the skin
A broken bone that happens unexpectedly
There is no clear cause of sarcomas. Cancer, in general, forms when mutations happen in the DNA within cells. Cells start to grow uncontrollably and from a mass called a tumor. Mutations in the DNA may be inherited, develop over time, or develop if exposed to something that damages genes, such as cigarette smoke, alcohol, or UV radiation from the sun.
Risk Factors According to the Mayo Clinic
Factors that can increase the risk of sarcoma include:
Inherited syndromes. Some syndromes that increase the risk of cancer can be passed from parents to children. Examples of syndromes that increase the risk of sarcoma include familial retinoblastoma and neurofibromatosis type 1.
Radiation therapy for cancer. Radiation treatment for cancer increases the risk of developing a sarcoma later.
Chronic swelling (lymphedema). Lymphedema is swelling caused by a backup of lymph fluid that occurs when the lymphatic system is blocked or damaged. It increases the risk of a type of sarcoma called angiosarcoma.
Exposure to chemicals. Certain chemicals, such as some industrial chemicals and herbicides, can increase the risk of sarcoma that affects the liver.
Exposure to viruses. The virus called human herpesvirus 8 can increase the risk of a type of sarcoma called Kaposi's sarcoma in people with weakened immune systems.
Sarcoma Statistics According to Cancer.Net
Sarcomas are described as being localized, locally advanced, or metastatic when they are first found.
Localized means the tumor is only in 1 area of the body.
Locally advanced means the tumor involves or attaches to nearby tissues or organs. This often means it is not possible to remove the tumor because of its location, size, or the organs it involves.
Metastatic means the sarcoma has spread to parts of the body far away from where the sarcoma started.
About 60% of sarcomas are found as a localized sarcoma. The 5-year survival rate for people with localized sarcoma is 81%.
About 18% of sarcomas are found in a locally advanced stage. The 5-year survival rate for people with locally advanced sarcoma is 56%.
About 15% of sarcomas are found in a metastatic stage. The 5-year survival rate for people with metastatic sarcoma is 16%.
1. “July Is Sarcoma Awareness Month: What You Should Know About The ‘Forgotten Cancer.’” Unicity Healthcare, Unicity Healthcare, https://www.unicityhealthcare.com/july-sarcoma-awareness-month-know-forgotten-cancer/.
2. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Sarcoma.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 5 Dec. 2020, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sarcoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20351048.
3. “Sarcomas, Soft Tissue: Statistics.” Cancer.Net, American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), Jan. 2022, https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/sarcomas-soft-tissue/statistics.