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Date: 5 April 2020

Time: 11:50

What is sarcoma?

  • Sarcomas are tumours that arise from cells that make up connective tissue such as bone, cartilage, blood vessels, muscle, fatty tissue and nerves
  • They can develop at any site in the body and there are many different types of sarcoma
  • Sarcomas are rare cancers. On average, a GP can expect to see only one or two sarcomas in their entire career. There are around 3,800 new cases of sarcoma diagnosed each year in the UK
  • There are around 100 different sub-types of sarcoma but these can be broadly grouped into:
    • soft tissue sarcomas
      • 60% of soft tissue sarcomas arise in the arms or legs, 20% in the trunk, 5% in the head and neck, and 15 – 20% in the abdomen or internal organs
      • The commonest sarcoma arising from the bowel is a gastrointestinal stromal tumour
    • bone sarcomas
      • Bone sarcomas are commonest in children, teenagers and young adults
      • There are 12,000 people living with sarcoma in the UK
      • The signs and symptoms vary according to where they develop
      • The first sign is of a lump in an arm or leg
      • Worrying features that might indicate a sarcoma include size greater than 5cm, a lump that is increasing in size, and pain
  • The causes of most sarcomas are unknown, but are very occasionally hereditary
  • Despite the many different sub-types of sarcoma, the general pattern of treatment is similar
  • Surgery is commonly viewed as the best option
  • Chemotherapy may be used if the type of sarcoma is known to be responsive
  • There are circumstances when radiotherapy may offer benefits

Further information is available on the Sarcoma UK website.

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