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Newest Techniques to Treat Sarcoma Can Help Save Your Limbs

SarcomaSarcoma is a rare form of cancer that occurs in the soft tissues and bones. Unlike more common cancers such as breast or lung cancer, sarcomas can occur anywhere in your body. But new techniques are allowing doctors to keep more of your body intact as they treat the condition.

Sarcoma is a slow-growing cancer and often doesn’t produce symptoms. It may appear as a painless lump under the skin. Some sarcomas may form deep in your abdomen and not cause symptoms until it is quite large.

Sarcoma is a rare cancer, and represent less than 1 percent of all cancers, says oncologist Dale Shepard, MD, PhD.  “There are only about 12,000 soft tissue sarcoma cases a year and they can occur in people of any age,” he says.

As a result, there often are major delays in diagnosing and treating sarcoma, Dr. Shepard says.

“They can grow really slowly, so patients report no symptoms until the sarcoma starts to press on the organs, nerves or muscles,” Dr. Shepard says. At that point, symptoms may include pain and problems with breathing.

If your doctor says you have a sarcoma, it’s a good idea to get evaluated at a hospital with the medical expertise and experience to treat this kind of rare cancer, Dr. Shepard says.

“If you have lung cancer, which is far more common, most oncologists are comfortable treating it,” he says. “However, not many hospitals or physicians are familiar with treating a sarcoma, so it’s best to seek evaluation at a medical center that specializes in sarcoma.”

Treatment options for sarcoma