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July is Sarcoma Awareness Month

Sarcoma Awareness Month 1st – 31st July - The First Aid Team

What is Sarcoma?

Sarcoma is a type of cancer that can appear anywhere in the body.

Every day, 15 people are diagnosed with sarcoma in the UK. That’s about 5,300 people a year.

There are two main types of sarcoma:

What is early diagnosis?

Being diagnosed with any cancer is an isolating and lonely experience.

This is particularly true for sarcoma patients, who have agonisingly long waits for a diagnosis of a cancer that has such limited treatment options.

The later that any cancer, including sarcoma, is diagnosed, there will be even fewer options available for treatment and a higher chance of treatments not working. Put simply, late diagnosis costs lives.

Why is it important to diagnose sarcomas quickly and accurately?

For soft tissue sarcomas, survival is determined be tumour size, grade and location. The only one of these factors that can be altered to improve outcome is the size of the tumour at diagnosis. By early detection we can catch tumours at a smaller size and improve outcomes.

Catching sarcoma at an early stage also means that the cancer is less likely to have spread, increasing the chance of survival.

Delays in diagnosis are also associated with increased risk of metastases, increased risk of amputation rather than limb salvage surgery and may have an impact on a patient’s opportunity for fertility preservation.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom of sarcoma is a lump that is growing or changing.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Swelling, tenderness or pain in the bone that can be worse at night
  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling sick
  • Loss of appetite or feeling full after a small amount of food
  • Blood in your poo or vomit
I have a lump

If you have a lump, it’s important to be aware of any changes that occur, so you can keep your GP informed.

What causes sarcoma?

We don’t fully understand why sarcomas happen. More research needs to be done to fully understand how sarcoma develops.

There are a few things that can increase the risk of sarcoma:

  • Age – although people can get sarcoma at any age, like other cancers, the risk increases as we get older.
  • Genetic conditions– some rare genetic conditions can increase your risk of getting sarcoma. Neurofibromatosis and Li-Fraumeni syndrome are some examples.
  • Previous radiotherapy– very rarely, some people who had radiotherapy for another type of cancer may develop soft tissue sarcoma years later.
  • Exposure to chemicals– certain chemicals including vinyl chloride, dioxins and phenoxyacetic herbicides have been associated with increased rates of soft tissue sarcoma.
  • Bone conditions– some bone conditions such as Paget’s disease can increase the risk of developing bone sarcoma.

Some people think that injuries can cause sarcoma. There isn’t currently any evidence to support this. However, it can draw attention to a sarcoma that was already there, and can be found if a person has x-rays or scans.

What are the treatment options?

Surgery is often the first treatment that people have.

People with sarcoma might also have chemotherapy or radiotherapy, depending on their individual circumstances.

Anyone who has sarcoma or a suspected sarcoma should be seen at a sarcoma specialist centre.