Those yellow ribbons one may see in the summer are a reminder that it is Sarcoma Awareness Month. Sarcoma is known as the “forgotten cancer.” According to www.sarcoalliance.org, about 13,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year. It does not discriminate either as it affects both men and women equally with most under the age of 60 years old. The lack of awareness makes research and drug development more challenging.
What is Sarcoma?
Sarcoma is a rare, soft-tissue cancer made up of many “subtypes” because it can emerge from a multitude of tissue and connective tissue structures. They are often found in the arms and legs because of the abundance of connective tissues located there. However, these tissue structures such as blood vessels, nerves, muscles, joints, and fat are present throughout the body which is why sarcomas can present themselves anywhere. Additionally, they can even be found in the bones.
No one truly knows or understands why some individuals develop sarcomas, but some risk factors have been discovered. Exposure to phenoxy acetic acid in herbicides or chlorophenols in wood preservatives may increase the risk. High doses of radiation and certain rare genetic alterations and inherited diseases have been also found to be culprits of the disease.
General treatment is decided on the stage of the cancer which is determined by the size and grade of the tumor and if it has spread to the lymph nodes or other body parts.
- Surgery –The most common way to remove the sarcoma is with surgery. This procedure can remove the cancer and a safe margin of tissue around it which will need to be followed up with radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.
- Radiation – This therapy can be used before surgery to shrink tumors or after to kill any cancer cells left behind.
- Chemotherapy – If the cancer has spread to any other parts of the body, this treatment may be used to shrink the tumors and reduce any pain associated with them. However, it will not destroy the disease.
Sarcoma Awareness Month aims to highlight the extraordinary challenges that sarcoma patients face and the need for more sarcoma research and better sarcoma therapies.
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