Sarcomas are a set of rare tumours whose origin lies in the soft tissues of the body or the bones.
Soft tissues include muscles, nerves, vessels and fat. These tissues may also form part of organs.
The infrequency of sarcomas makes it necessary to handle clinical cases and their treatment on an individual basis, which generally involves a decision-making process that is shared by several professionals with expertise in this disease and the patients themselves.
The correct diagnosis of a sarcoma and its specific type is the first critical step to be taken, as it will form the basis of the clinical handling of the patient, as well as the precise information about the nature of their disease.
In contrast to many cancers, sarcomas do not usually generate symptoms in their early stages of growth. This is because they develop in areas of the body in which they can progressively grow by pushing against structures and organs.
The first symptom may be a painless lump. The majority of lumps are benign, but if it grows quickly, hurts, is deep and/or measures more than 5 centimetres, it is more likely to be a sarcoma. Sometimes the symptoms may appear as a result of excessive compression of the body’s various tissues and organs.
Who is affected by the condition?
There is no clear factor that triggers a sarcoma. Certain inherited genetic syndromes may predispose a person to being more likely to develop a type of sarcoma, such as Li–Fraumeni syndrome, neurofibromatosis or familial adenomatous polyposis.
One of the most important steps is to confirm the clinical suspicion of sarcoma and identify its specific type. This requires a biopsy to obtain a fragment of the tumour so it can be studied by Pathological Anatomy.
It is sometimes diagnosed with molecular techniques in association with radiological tests like x-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or PET-CT.
The treatment of all sarcoma patients is always agreed by multidisciplinary committees composed of professionals with expertise in sarcomas from a variety of the services of our centre: Medical Oncology, Radiation Oncology, Traumatology, General Surgery, Radiology and Pathological Anatomy.
Given that sarcomas may arise in any part of the body, occasionally other specialists may also participate.
The treatment of sarcoma patients may include:
- radiation therapy
- or a combination of the above.
The most suitable procedure depends on a number of different factors in addition to the specific type of sarcoma. Targeted therapy and immunotherapy play a very important role in certain types of sarcoma. Finally, there are also clinical trials that experiment with new therapies.
The commonest are radiological tests like those described above (x-ray, CT, MRI and PET-CT).
As there is no specific cause of sarcomas, in the majority of cases there are no specific measures that can be taken beyond the usual healthy living habits recommended by the World Health Organization.
Patients with inherited genetic syndromes, however, are advised to undergo monitoring in specialist units.
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Traumatology, Rehabilitation and Burns Hospital