A lump is often the earliest symptom of sarcoma.
If you have sarcoma, you may notice a lump—often in a muscle or bone in your arm or leg. The lump may be painful, but some sarcoma tumors don’t cause any pain, even when you touch them.
Some people who have had sarcoma in their arm or leg say they thought it was an injury, like a pulled or swollen muscle that was taking a long time to heal.
Not all sarcomas are in the arms and legs. Some kinds of soft-tissue sarcoma may cause tumors to grow where they can’t be seen, such as in the abdomen. Those tumors usually don’t get noticed until they grow and press against an organ, nerve, or blood vessel and cause pain or make it hard to breathe.
Learn more about sarcoma.
- Sarcoma affects bone and soft tissue.
Sarcoma is actually two kinds of cancer: bone cancer and soft tissue cancer.
Bone cancer may be a tumor that forms in a bone, or it may be a tumor from another part of the body that spreads to a bone. Soft tissue cancer causes tumors in muscles, tendons, or the fat underneath the skin.
Sarcoma is very rare. Less than 1 percent of all cancer patients have sarcoma. But there are more than 150 different kinds of sarcoma.
While sarcoma is the name of the cancer that causes the tumors, you also may hear the tumor itself called a sarcoma. Your doctor may say something like, “A sarcoma is a lump under the skin.”
- Your doctor may diagnose sarcoma with a biopsy or an X-ray.
A biopsy is a way to remove a small part of the tumor tissue from your body so that it can be taken to a lab and studied very closely.
Your doctor is more likely to use X-rays if the sarcoma appears to be is in a bone. This is a way to get take pictures of the inside of the bone, which can make it easier to tell how large the lump is and to tell if it is a cancerous tumor. To get an even more detailed picture of the tumor, your doctor may use other types of imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computed tomography (CT) scan.
You doctor will choose tests based on what kind of sarcoma you might have.
- Treatment may involve surgery and chemotherapy.
In most cases, the way to remove a sarcoma tumor is to remove the part of the bone or tissue that has the tumor in it. A surgeon who is specially trained in cancer surgeries removes the tumor and some of the healthy bone or tissue that surrounds the tumor. This prevents the sarcoma from spreading.
Not long ago, bone cancer surgery often required amputation of a limb. Today, bone cancer surgeons save the limb about 95 percent of the time, sometimes using prosthetics that are custom made for the patient.
Chemotherapy or radiation also may also be used to kill cancer cells, either before or after the surgery.
Your treatment will depend on many factors that you’ll discuss with your doctor, including the size of the tumor, its location in the body, how fast it is growing, and your age and overall health.
Your sarcoma care requires a level of expertise and teamwork that few hospitals can offer.
Oncologists who specialize in sarcoma are very hard to find. Look no further than Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center to find yours.
Because sarcoma is so rare, and because there are so many different kinds of sarcoma, very few oncologists (cancer doctors) are specially trained to diagnose and treat it. The United States has about 50 oncologists who specialize in sarcoma. Two of those specialists work at Holden.
Your sarcoma care at Holden goes way beyond your oncologist.
You’ll be cared for by an entire team of experts. Each cancer patient is treated by a group that includes experts in multiple areas, such as surgery, radiology, pathology, and genetic counseling. Your care team meets weekly to discuss your sarcoma, and they’re joined by scientific researchers who help them create a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs.
A recent study by University of Iowa researchers found that survival rates are higher for sarcoma patients who are treated at large hospitals with dedicated dedicated sarcoma specialists on staff, such as the sarcoma experts at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.
We have an entire team of sarcoma specialists.
Joseph A. Buckwalter IV, MD, MS
Carlos H.F. Chan, MD, PhD
- Assistant Professor
Hisakazu Hoshi, MD
- Co-Leader Melanoma MOG
- Associate Deputy Director for Clinical Cancer Services for Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center
- Clinical Professor
James Howe, MD
- Co-Leader Gastrointestinal Neuroendocrine MOG
Benjamin J. Miller, MD, MS
- Co-Leader of the Sarcoma MOG
- Associate Professor
Jose A. Morcuende, MD, PhD
Internal Medicine Physicians
Mohammed M. Milhem, MBBS
- Holden Chair of Experimental Therapeutics
- Associate Director of Clinical Research and Melanoma Program Director-Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center
- Director-Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Blood & Marrow Transplantation
- Clinical Professor
Varun Monga, MBBS
- Clinical Associate Professor
- Co-Director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program
- Co-Leader of the Sarcoma and Neuro Oncology MOG
Radiation Oncology Physicians
Cancer Care Clinics
Clinical Cancer Center21602 Pomerantz Family Pavilion (PFP)
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