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Risk Factors | Screening and Diagnosis | Personalized Treatment | Additional Patient Support

The experienced, collaborative team of specialists at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center combines the most advanced scientific knowledge and technology with a comprehensive and compassionate approach to care, creating a program of personalized medicine and patient-centered care for each individual diagnosed with sarcoma.

Drawing from the diverse experience of physicians, surgeons, nurses, researchers and a host of other highly trained healthcare professionals, the Kellogg Cancer Center team works collaboratively and is dedicated to putting patients—and families—at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers compassionate, quality care.

Sarcoma Risk Factors

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 and Diagnosis

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.

Personalized Sarcoma Treatment

A variety of treatment options for sarcoma exist, depending on the type and site of origin:

  • Tumors of the arms and legs, which have not spread to other parts of the body, are generally treated with surgery followed by radiation therapy. Sometimes chemotherapy is given in addition to surgery and radiation therapy for soft-tissue tumors.
  • Sarcomas that arise within the abdominal cavity, chest, or the head and neck require surgery and removal of the tumor, and sometimes the removal of surrounding structures. The surgery is sometimes followed by radiation.
  • Sarcomas of the bone are generally treated with surgery. In most cases, chemotherapy is also used and some sarcomas also require radiation in addition to or instead of surgery. NorthShore has a linear accelerator that delivers precise doses of radiation using Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) technology. This allows higher doses of radiation to be delivered to tumors while sparing healthy tissue. 

NorthShore offers a full range of surgical options and expertise for patients diagnosed with sarcoma, including isolated limb infusions and isolated limb perfusion. When a sarcoma alters normal appearance, your surgeon may work with a plastic surgeon to explore reconstructive options that may restore form and function.

Every week, our multidisciplinary team meets in a multidisciplinary conference to discuss each patient’s case in detail and to design a personalized treatment plan. For sarcoma, your team may include your medical oncologistsurgeon, radiation oncologistgeneticist, pathologist, nutritionist, pharmacist, interventional radiologist, social worker and researchers, all focused on you. This "meeting of the minds" provides critical input, resulting in an individualized care plan outlining the best course of action for each patient.

Patients are at the center of this multidisciplinary team, and Kellogg staff arrange for them to be seen by their multidisciplinary team at one appointment, not only for their convenience but to provide a consensus on their course of treatment. Our use of one of the most advanced Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems in the country enhances our open communication and promotes collaboration in our patient care.

Additional Patient Support

Kellogg Cancer Center’s unique services and resources assist patients and family members with a variety of challenges they may face from diagnosis, treatment and beyond. A wide array of support services are available to patients that include our integrative medicine services, financial advocacy and survivorship, to name a few.

For More Information

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please call 847.570.2112.