Although it is a rare disorder, approximately 14,000 new cases of sarcoma are diagnosed in the United States each year.1 Approximately 15% of cancer diagnoses among patients aged <20 years are sarcomas.
Patients should be encouraged to understand their disease. Healthcare professionals can provide pamphlets and other resources with general information about the condition, including the 2 main subtypes of sarcomas—bone and soft tissue—as well as information about the specific type of sarcoma the patient may have.
In addition, it is important to identify and educate populations that may be at higher risk for sarcomas. For example, patients with certain inherited disorders (eg, neurofibromatosis or tuberous sclerosis) may be at higher risk for soft tissue sarcomas.2 Other risk factors for soft tissue sarcomas include past treatment with radiation therapy for certain cancers, exposure to chemicals (eg, thorium dioxide), and long-term lymphedema in the arms and legs.
There are also risk factors for sarcomas of the bone; in a very small number of cases, these sarcomas may be hereditary.3 In other cases, patients with disorders such as Paget disease, or who have been exposed to radiation, may be at higher risk for bone sarcomas. Bone marrow transplantation and certain injuries have also been associated with higher risk for bone sarcomas.
Patients should also be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of sarcomas. For soft tissue sarcomas, patients may see and/or feel a painless lump under their skin; these often occur on the arm or leg.2 Other soft sarcomas may not have signs or symptoms until they grow to a certain size, such as sarcomas that start in the abdomen. In those cases, pain and trouble breathing may be signs and symptoms for patients to look for. In bone cancer, symptoms may include bone pain, swelling and tenderness near the affected area, broken bones, as well as fatigue, and unintended weight loss.4
Because other conditions may have similar symptoms, it is important that patients bring these to their healthcare provider's attention.
1. Sarcoma Alliance. What is sarcoma? http://sarcomaalliance.org/what-you-need-to-know/what-is-sarcoma/. Accessed June 22, 2016.
2. National Cancer Institute. Adult soft tissue sarcoma treatment. www.cancer.gov/types/soft-tissue-sarcoma/patient/adult-soft-tissue-treatment-pdq. Updated May 23, 2016. Accessed June 22, 2016.
3. American Cancer Society. What are the risk factors for bone cancer? www.cancer.org/cancer/bonecancer/detailedguide/bone-cancer-risk-factors. Updated January 21, 2016. Accessed June 23, 2016.
4. Mayo Clinic. Bone cancer: symptoms and causes. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bone-cancer/symptoms-causes/dxc-20126419. Published March 17, 2015. Accessed June 23, 2016.