Sarcoma Cancer – Risk Factors, Signs & Symptoms

A brief introduction to Sarcoma Cancer, the risk factors and what signs and symptoms to look out for. This post is purely for general information purposes and by no means replace the advice of a medical practitioner.

July is Sarcoma Cancer Awareness Month

Sarcoma is a general term that is used for a broad group of cancers which arise in the bones and the soft connective tissue such as fat and muscle, blood vessels and nerves, tendons and cartilage. This type of cancer can occur in various locations in your body.

Though there are more than 70 different types of sarcoma, they can be grouped into 2 main types: bone sarcoma, or osteosarcoma, and soft tissue sarcoma.

In most cases, it’s not clear what causes sarcoma. Family history and exposure to chemicals or radiation may increase risk.

Risk factors

Factors that can increase the risk of sarcoma include:

  • Inherited syndromes. Some syndromes that increase the risk of cancer can be passed from parents to children, like familial retinoblastoma and neurofibromatosis type 1.
  • Radiation therapy for cancer. Radiation treatment increases risk of developing a sarcoma later.
  • Chronic swelling (lymphedema). Lymphedema is swelling caused by a backup of lymph fluid that occurs when the lymphatic system is blocked or damaged. It increases the risk of a type of sarcoma called angiosarcoma.
  • Exposure to chemicals. Certain chemicals, such as some industrial chemicals and herbicides, can increase the risk of sarcoma that affects the liver.
  • Exposure to viruses. The virus called human herpesvirus 8 can increase the risk of a type of sarcoma called Kaposi’s sarcoma in people with weakened immune systems.

The symptoms and the treatment will vary depending on the type of sarcoma, the location and other factors.

Signs and Symptoms

  • A lump that can be felt through the skin; it may/may not be painful
  • Bone pain
  • A broken bone that happens unexpectedly, such as with a minor injury or no injury at all
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss

Treatment may include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Sarcomas can be treated, often by having surgery to remove the tumor.

Children and young adults get osteosarcoma more often than adults. Because active, healthy children and teenagers often have pain and swelling in their arms and legs, osteosarcoma might be mistaken for growing pains or a sports injury. If your child’s pain doesn’t get better, or gets worse at night, and is in one arm or leg rather than both, please talk to a doctor. Adults with this kind of pain should see a doctor right away.


Sources: mayoclinic.org, webmd.com, cansa.org.za

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