Like any form of cancer, spotting the signs of sarcoma early is crucial. To help spread awareness, 28-year-old Gareth Emmerson is cycling a whopping 1000 miles across the UK. A Sarcoma sufferer, Gareth is a true inspiration, and has exceeded his fundraising target of £100,000 for Sarcoma UK!
As July marks Sarcoma Awareness Month, we thought we would share some common questions. For example, what is it? And how is it treated? Therefore, you can find out everything you need to know below.
What is sarcoma?
Sarcoma is a term used to describe a broad group of uncommon cancers. It is estimated that there are around 100 different types of sarcomas, separated into three distinct categories. These include primary bone sarcoma, soft tissue sarcoma, and gastro-intestinal stromal tumours.
They can develop within the bone, cartilage, muscles, nerves, fibrous and fatty tissues. They most commonly develop around the legs, trunk, and arms. There are approximately 5300 cases of sarcomas diagnosed each year in the UK. They account for fewer than 1% of adult cancer cases in the country.
The most common type of sarcoma patients develop is soft tissue sarcoma. This includes liposarcoma, undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma, and leiomyosarcoma soft tissue sarcomas.
How is it diagnosed?
Getting an early diagnosis is key for successful treatment of sarcoma. The main symptom you may experience is a lump in the arm, leg, or trunk area. While these are the most common areas for them to develop, they can occur in other parts of the body too.
There are several ways to diagnose the condition, starting with a clinical assessment. A scan, such as an X-Ray, Ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan, will help to see whether there is a sarcoma inside the body. A biopsy may need to be carried out on suspected tissue.
If sarcoma is diagnosed, it will be presented as a specific grade and stage. There are three grades, including low, intermediate, and high-grade. The latter is the fastest spreading, more aggressive form of the condition. In addition, it will be categorised into one of four stages. Stage 1 is the easiest to treat as the cancer is localised. Stage 4 cancer is the most severe, highlighting that it has spread throughout the body.
What treatment options are available?
The subtype, grade and stage of your sarcoma will determine the type of treatment you require. Whichever type you have, it should be treated at a specialist centre.
The most common type of treatment is a combination of surgery and radiotherapy. The tumour is removed, alongside additional tissue in the surrounding area. This prevents any cancer cells potentially being left behind. But if the tumour is large, radiotherapy can be used to shrink it down prior to surgery. Certainly it reduces the risk of the tumour recurring.
You will learn which treatment method is right for you after receiving a diagnosis. In addition, you may be offered the opportunity to take part in clinical trials.
Above all, if you are worried you may have sarcoma, you should seek a diagnosis as quickly as possible. The earlier it is caught, the easier it will be to treat.
For more advice, call us on 020 3770 5864 to arrange an appointment at the HCA Lister Hospital (Chelsea Outpatient Centre and Chiswick Medical Centre). Or call 020 7808 2785 to book a consultation with Mr Myles Smith at the Royal Marsden Hospital.