July Cancer Awareness

Posted by: jreeveseastwood - Posted on:

This July, we at the Atherstone Surgery are committed to raising awareness for sarcoma.

We understand that the word cancer can be daunting to many. We want to ensure those who have cancer or have a loved one suffering with cancer get the help and care they need. We want you to know you are not alone.

Cancer awareness is at the forefront of cancer prevention. Cancer screening is the first step. This involves testing apparently healthy people for signs of disease. When cancer is picked up early, treatment is more likely to be successful.

Our Goal is to get more cancers diagnosed at an early stage by raising awareness of key symptoms and encouraging people to discuss them with their doctor without delay.

What are sarcomas?

Sarcoma is the medical name for a cancerous tumour and they are among the rarest forms of cancer. They are tumours that develop in bone and connective tissue, such as fat, muscle, blood vessels, nerves and the tissue that surrounds bones and joints. Because bone and soft tissues can be found nearly everywhere in the body, a sarcoma can start in any part of the body, making them hard to diagnose and treat.

  • 40% occur in your lower extremities (legs, ankles, feet).
  • 15% occur in your upper extremities (shoulders, arms, wrists, hands).
  • 30% occur in your trunk/chest wall/abdomen/pelvis.
  • 15% occur in your head and neck.

What causes sarcoma?

Sarcomas form when immature bone or soft tissue cells have changes to their DNA, and they develop into cancer cells that grow in an unregulated way. They may eventually form a mass or tumor that can invade nearby healthy tissues. Left untreated, the cancer can travel via your bloodstream or lymphatic system from the primary location where it formed to other organs (metastasis). Metastasized cancer is challenging to treat.

As with other forms of cancer, researchers don’t know what causes a healthy cell to become sarcoma and in most cases there are no obvious reasons why a sarcoma develops, but there are a number of things known to increase the risk, including:

  • Lymphedema: Long-term swelling in your arms or legs.
  • Genetic conditions: Certain inherited disorders and chromosome mutations, such as Gardner syndrome, Werner syndrome, von Hippel-Lindau disease, Gorlin syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, retinoblastoma and neurofibromatosis type 1.
  • age – soft tissue sarcomas can happen at any age, including in children, but they’re more common in middle-aged or elderly people and your risk increases as you get older.
  • Previous radiotherapy – some people who have previously had radiotherapy for another type of cancer develop a soft tissue sarcoma, often many years later.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, including vinyl chloride, dioxins and phenoxyacetic herbicides, has been associated with increased rates of soft tissue sarcoma.

Who is affected by sarcoma?

Both children and adults can develop a sarcoma. It is rare in adults, accounting for about 1% of all adult cancers. Sarcomas represent about 15% of all childhood cancers.

Generally, soft tissue sarcoma occurs more frequently in adults. Bone sarcoma diagnoses occur more often in children, teens and people older than 65 years. Bone sarcoma occurs more frequently in people assigned male at birth and people who are Black or Hispanic.

There are more than 70 known subtypes of sarcoma. These subtypes can all be grouped into two main types of sarcoma: soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma

Soft tissue Sarcoma

What is soft tissue sarcoma?

Soft tissue sarcomas begin in the muscle or other connective tissues of your body. This includes fat, muscle, blood vessels, nerves, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, deep skin tissues and the tissue around your joints. There is a lot of soft tissue in your body, so where tumours grow is different from person to person.

Unlike bone sarcomas, most soft tissue sarcomas occur in adults. Certain types of sarcoma, such as rhabdomyosarcoma, are found mostly in children.

What are the symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma?

Soft tissue sarcomas often have no obvious symptoms in the early stages but as they grow you’ll often feel a lump, which might be painless at first but starts to hurt as it pushes against nearby nerves and muscles. They can cause symptoms as they get bigger or spread. The symptoms depend on where the cancer develops.

For example:

  • A new lump that may or may not hurt., that cannot easily be moved around and gets bigger over time.
  • swelling in the tummy (abdomen) may cause abdominal pain, a persistent feeling of fullness and constipation.
  • swelling near the lungs may cause a cough or breathlessness.
  • Unexplained weight loss.

Although it’s much more likely you have a non-cancerous condition, such as a cyst (fluid under the skin) or lipoma (fatty lump), it’s important to have your symptoms checked.

If you’ve noticed a lump – particularly one that’s getting bigger over time, it’s important to get it checked out by a doctor straightaway. The majority of lumps and bumps that people experience are not cancer. However, it’s advisable to have it examined.

A lump has a higher chance of being diagnosed as sarcoma if it:

  • Is large (e.g., greater than 5 cm broad) or expanding.
  • Is deeply rooted in biological tissues.
  • Is painful.
  • Appears when you are older.
  • Has returned following a prior operation to remove a sarcoma.

How is soft tissue sarcoma diagnosed?

Doctors use a range of tests to diagnose soft tissue sarcomas.

MRI scans, CT scans, PET scans and X-rays are all used to find and look at lumps in more detail. You won’t feel anything while you’re having these scans and they don’t cause any pain.

Biopsies are used to take cells from lumps so they can be studied under a microscope for signs of cancer.

How is soft tissue sarcoma treated?

For early-stage soft tissue sarcomas, surgery is the major form of treatment. The tumour and a portion of the surrounding healthy tissue are typically removed. By doing this, it is possible to eliminate all cancerous cells. Every attempt will be made to limit how the procedure will impair the affected body part’s appearance and functionality. However, there is a chance that following surgery you’ll find it challenging to use the affected body part, and sometimes another round of surgery may be required to correct it.

Bone Sarcoma

What is a bone sarcoma?

Bone sarcoma (also known as primary bone cancer) is a cancer that starts in the bone. More than one-third of bone sarcomas are diagnosed in people younger than 35 years old. Many are diagnosed in children.

It is rare and makes up only 0.2% of all cancer diagnoses in England. There are on average, 500 diagnoses in the UK each year.

Bone sarcoma can affect any bone in the body, but most commonly affects the legs.

Types of primary bone sarcoma include:

  • Osteosarcoma (most common).
  • Chondrosarcoma.
  • Chordoma.
  • Ewing’s sarcoma.
  • Fibrosarcoma.

What are the symptoms of bone sarcoma?

Symptoms of primary bone cancer can be very general and often appear similar to the symptoms of sports injuries, growing pains or many other common conditions such as tendonitis or arthritis. They may also vary depending on the location and the size of the tumour.

The most common symptoms of primary bone cancer are:

  • Bone pain
  • This can be constant or intermittent (comes and goes). Painkillers may not help and the pain can be worse at night
  • The area may be tender to touch.
  • A lump or swelling may be seen or felt if the tumour is near the surface of the body. In other places (i.e. the pelvis) a lump or swelling may not be visible
  • Inflammation and tenderness over the bone
  • Problems with mobility such as stiff joints or reduced movement
  • Development of an unexplained limp, joint stiffness and reduced range of motion
  • Easy bruising
  • Trouble moving your arm or leg (a limp or limited range of motion).
  • You should see your doctor if you notice a change that isn’t normal for you. Or if you have any of the possible signs and symptoms of cancer.

If have symptoms and you’re worried about what they might be, don’t delay in seeing a clinician. Your worry is unlikely to go away if you don’t make an appointment. The symptom might not be due to cancer. But if it is, the earlier it’s picked up the higher the chance of successful treatment. You won’t be wasting your doctor’s time.

How is bone sarcoma treated?

Bone sarcoma surgery frequently entails a thorough removal of the tumour. A wide excision involves the surgical removal of both the tumour and a margin of healthy tissue all around it. When possible, methods are used to preserve the arm or leg if the tumour is in an arm or leg. Sometimes, this is referred to as “limb salvaging” or “limb sparing.” However, it is occasionally essential to amputate, which is the removal of the arm or limb that the tumour is on. This is dependent on the size and/or location of the tumour.

For some general information about sarcomas, their diagnosis and treatment please take a look at this leaflet from Sarcoma UK

For a list of helpful websites please click on the links below: