Soft tissue sarcomas are cancerous tumors that can develop from fat, muscle, nerve, joint, blood vessel or deep skin tissues. Affecting mostly adults, sarcomas can develop in any part of the body. About half develop in the arms or legs, and the rest arise in the trunk, head and neck area, internal organs or the back of the abdominal cavity. There are many types of sarcomas and because each subtype is rare, diagnosis is often difficult.
The cause of most sarcomas is unknown. Several hereditary syndromes may place people at higher risk for developing sarcoma. Some sarcomas may form years after a person is treated with therapeutic radiation for other cancers or diseases. Occasionally, a benign tumor can develop into a malignant sarcoma.
The symptoms of sarcoma depend on their site of origin. Bone sarcomas often present with pain at the site of origin. When this pain persists in a young person or any person without known arthritis or other joint diseases, it should be pursued with an X-ray. Soft-tissue sarcomas may arise in various locations, often beginning with a lump that can be felt or is painful. Sarcomas within the abdomen or chest may be harder to diagnose, showing up when patients have pain there, or bleeding from the intestines or bladder.
Sarcoma Screening & Diagnosis
Bruce Brockstein, MD
Head, Division of Hematology and Oncology
The diagnosis of sarcoma rests upon suspecting it and performing an appropriate biopsy. The biopsy or tissue sample should be done by an experienced surgeon or radiologist who is familiar with the techniques of biopsy of these diseases. Prior to biopsy, a CT scan or MRI is often performed. The biopsy sample is examined to determine if cancer is present. Once a diagnosis is made, a physician will determine the severity or stage of the cancer, including whether it has spread to other areas of the body. Each cancer type has its own classification system.
NorthShore University HealthSystem physicians and the team at the Kellogg Cancer Center work collaboratively and are dedicated to putting patients and families at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers compassionate, quality care.
Every week, our multidisciplinary team meets to discuss each patient’s case in detail and to design a personalized treatment plan. Your team may include your medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, radiation oncologist, genetics counselor, pathologist, radiologist, nutritionist, collaborative nurse and nurse navigator, interventional radiologist and researchers focused on you. This meeting of the minds provides each patient with an individualized care plant to create the path for the most successful outcome. Our approach emphasizes open communication, collaborating with each other personally and through one of the most advanced electronic medical records systems in the country.