From David Pratt, MD, radiation oncologist with OHC, the National Foundation for Cancer Research and the Sarcoma Foundation of America

July 17, 2018

“At age 39, I noticed a small lump about the size of a quarter in my lower abdomen. I had some previous surgery in that area and assumed it was scar tissue. Since it wasn’t causing any pain or issues, I didn’t go to the doctor. That same year, completely unrelated, I went on a mission to eat healthier and be more active. In that journey to become healthier, I lost 60 pounds. With a slimmer waistline, that lump was now more prominent and about the size of a large orange. About the same time I started noticing shooting pain in my left leg (same side as the lump) and visited my primary doctor. Several doctor visits and scans later, the doctors suspected I had a hernia. I was scheduled for surgery to remove it. When I awoke from the surgery, the surgeon explained it was not a hernia but he had no idea what it was. Thankfully the surgeon realized this was something unusual and removed the mass. After sending the tumor for testing and receiving second and third opinions, it was determined that I had a form of soft tissue sarcoma. My treatment plan was seven weeks of radiation. Three years later, I am still in remission!”

– Janice, a sarcoma cancer survivor

July is Sarcoma Awareness Month. Some wonder why we have a Sarcoma Awareness Month because it’s rare. It’s to help people like Janice. We still need more research and treatment development to help people like Janice with this type of cancer, and awareness and understanding can help.

Sarcomas grow in connective tissue – cells that connect or support other kinds of tissue in your body. These tumors are most common in the bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage, nerves, fat, and blood vessels of your arms and legs, but they can also happen in other areas of your body. Although there are more than 50 types of sarcoma, they can be grouped into two main kinds: soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma. Sarcomas can be treated, often by having surgery to remove the tumor. Radiation and chemotherapy are sometimes needed as well.

We want to help the sarcoma community, so we are supporting their efforts to increase awareness and understanding of sarcoma. Here is a list of five facts to know about sarcoma from the National Foundation for Cancer Research:

  1. Sarcomas are rare.
    Sarcomas are rare in adults and make up approximately 1 percent of all adult cancer diagnoses. They are relatively more common among children.
  2. Sarcoma can develop nearly anywhere in the body.
    Common areas sarcoma tumors grow in include the legs, hands, arms, head, neck, chest, shoulders, abdomen and hips. About 50-60 percent of soft tissue sarcomas occur in extremities (arms and legs).
  3. For most sarcomas, the cause is not known.
    Although there are no known risk factors for sarcoma, certain genetic conditions, radiation exposure and some chemicals may increase the risk of developing sarcoma in some individuals. You may be at increased risk if:

    • Other people in your family have had sarcoma
    • You have a bone disorder called Paget’s disease
    • You have a genetic disorder such as neurofibromatosis, Gardner syndrome, retinoblastoma, or Li-Fraumeni syndrome
    • You’re been exposed to radiation, perhaps during treatment for an earlier cancer
  4. Sarcomas are difficult to detect and diagnose.
    Sarcomas are difficult to detect and often misdiagnosed. In their early stages, soft tissue sarcomas rarely display any symptoms other than a painless lump. As the tumor grows, pain may occur depending on where the tumor is located, or if it presses on nearby nerves.
  5. If you’ve been diagnosed with sarcoma, get a second opinion.
    With a rare and complex cancer, such as sarcoma, it is important to seek the best possible care to improve your chance of survival. Many doctors have never seen or treated a patient with sarcoma. Get a second opinion from a doctor that specializes in sarcoma about the initial diagnosis and the treatment plan.

For more information about the treatment of sarcomas or for a second opinion, call OHC at 1-888-649-4800 or visit ohcare.com. For more information about medical research efforts toward finding a cure for sarcoma, visit Sarcoma Foundation of America at curesarcoma.org.

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