A sarcoma is a rare malignant tumor that can affect any part of the body. It is therefore a major medical challenge to recognize and treat the disease. It is not uncommon for patients to have to travel a long way through a wide variety of health care wards before the correct diagnosis is made. The following applies: The earlier a sarcoma is detected, the better the chances of recovery.
What is a sarcoma?
A sarcoma is a combination of several degenerated body cells that multiply faster than healthy cells. The rapid cell growth of the tumor cells leads to a functional disorder of the affected trade or organ. See wholevehicles for What are the Meanings of Millard-Gubler Syndrome.
As a malignant tumor, the sarcoma often detaches itself from its place of origin and colonizes the surrounding tissue (infiltration) or reaches more distant body tissue via the bloodstream or the lymphatic system, which leads to the formation of metastases. Sarcomas fall into two main groups: soft tissue sarcomas and bone sarcomas.
In the case of soft tissue sarcomas, physicians differentiate between more than 150 different types of tumors that form in connective tissue, in fatty tissue or in the muscles. The disease occurs most frequently in adults between the ages of 45 and 55.
Bone sarcomas, which can form in the bones as well as in the bone marrow, in the cartilage or in the joints, tend to affect young people between the ages of 10 and 30.
It is largely unclear which factors contribute to the development of sarcomas. Contact with industrial toxins was considered a possible cause until a few years ago, but no statistical evidence has been provided so far.
Sarcomas rarely develop in the irradiated areas of the body after radiation therapy. The development of soft tissue sarcomas can often be observed in connection with certain diseases such as neurofibromatosis, retinoblastoma or Fraumeni syndrome.
Congenital genetic defects can also promote the formation of different tumors. However, all of these factors are only responsible for the development of a very small proportion of sarcomas. Almost all sarcomas occur spontaneously without a specific trigger being able to be named.
Typical & common sarcomas
- Ewing sarcoma
- Kaposi’s sarcoma
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Symptoms differ depending on the type of sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcomas are often painless at the beginning. As the disease progresses, pain can occur due to the increasing growth of the tumor. Functional restrictions of the affected structures are also possible. Osteosarcoma, the sarcoma of the bones, also becomes noticeable quite late.
Local swelling with pain is one of the first symptoms. Exactly as in the case of soft tissue sarcoma, functional restrictions of the joints or other surrounding structures can also occur in osteosarcoma due to displacement. Localized pain, swelling and overheating are the main symptoms of Ewing’s sarcoma, a malignant tumor of children and adolescents.
Depending on its size, the sarcoma can displace other structures in the body and thus lead to functional limitations or loss of function. As with most cancers, so-called B symptoms can also occur with sarcoma. Those affected suffer from inexplicable fever and night sweats. The expression can be very different.
Some of the patients only feel a light film of sweat, while other patients completely soak the bed linen with their sweat. Furthermore, people with a sarcoma often unintentionally lose more than ten percent of their body weight within six months.
Diagnosis & History
An initially painless swelling that often grows over weeks and months can be the first sign of a sarcoma. If the tumor spreads further and thereby stretches important nerves, the affected person often experiences pain.
Furthermore, the functionality of the normal tissue is usually limited. In order to diagnose a possible tumor, the oncologist first uses imaging methods such as X-rays, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. A blood test can also provide information about the presence of a sarcoma, as some blood values indirectly indicate its existence.
To confirm the diagnosis definitively, a sample of the tumor is often taken and examined under a microscope. Since the removal of tumor cells may spread to the surrounding tissue and thus spread into the body, an operation must be carried out as quickly as possible if the result is positive.
A sarcoma can cause various complications. If the tumor spreads within the tissue, it can lead to tissue damage and nerve disorders. In the further course, the sarcoma can spread and spread to other parts of the body and internal organs – a variety of symptoms and permanent tissue and organ damage are the result.
Accompanying this, chronic pain develops, which can lead to psychological problems in the event of a longer-lasting illness. Many of those affected suffer from anxiety disorders and depression, for example, which often persist for a long time after treatment. Before the operation, there is a risk that the wrong biopsy access will be made.
Accompanying this, hematomas and infections can develop. Vessel injuries and bleeding are conceivable during and after the operation. In addition, the skin at the site of the operation can scar or wound healing disorders and inflammation can occur. Finally, the prescribed medication can also cause symptoms.
Painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs are usually used, which occasionally cause headaches, muscle and bone pain, problems with the gastrointestinal tract and skin irritation. If the patient suffers from a previous illness, serious complications of the cardiovascular system can occur.
When should you go to the doctor?
A sarcoma should always be treated by a doctor. As a rule, it cannot heal on its own, although in the worst case the patient can die without medical treatment. In any case, the further spread of the tumor must be prevented.
A doctor should be consulted if the patient suffers from severe swelling. This swelling can appear in various parts of the body and is usually relatively easy to see with the naked eye. Night sweats are also often an indication of the sarcoma and should be examined by a doctor. It can also lead to fever or severe weight loss in those affected.
The sarcoma can be diagnosed primarily by a general practitioner . However, further treatment requires a specialist who can remove the sarcoma. It cannot be universally predicted whether there will be a positive course of the disease. The life expectancy of those affected may also be reduced as a result of the disease.
Treatment & Therapy
The therapy of a sarcoma depends crucially on the spread of the disease after the diagnosis has been made. For small, localized tumors, surgery is the first choice.
The aim here is to completely remove the malignant tissue. For this purpose, a part of the healthy tissue adjacent to the sarcoma is also removed, since tumor cells that have migrated and promote the formation of metastases can be hidden there. In the case of large tumors, before surgical removal, an attempt is first made to achieve a reduction in size through chemotherapy.
If metastases have already formed, chemotherapy, which can be administered via tablets, infusion or injection, is the first treatment step. If this therapy is ineffective, radiation can help to destroy the tumor tissue. Recent studies show that the administration of drugs that block the metabolic pathways in the tumor cell can have a positive effect on the success of the treatment.
Since every patient reacts differently to new substances and drugs used in chemotherapy, the creation of an individual therapy plan is an absolute must.
The development of sarcomas is not influenced by the behavior of those affected, which is why there are no preventive measures. A healthy lifestyle, which includes a balanced diet and sufficient exercise as well as taking preventive medical check-ups, is a crucial step towards staying healthy. If an illness is already present, a balanced social environment that supports the person affected has a positive influence on recovery.
Following the medical treatment of the sarcoma, follow-up care begins. One of their main goals is the timely detection and treatment of a recurrence, i.e. a recurrence of the tumor. In addition, follow-up care deals with any undesirable consequences or side effects of cancer treatment and helps the patient to return to his or her everyday life.
If it is possible to surgically remove the sarcoma, regular follow-up examinations must then take place. This also applies if complete healing can no longer be achieved so that the treatment can be controlled. The check-ups are carried out either by an oncologist or a special tumor center. How often the follow-up examinations have to take place depends on the course of the disease and the individual state of health of the patient.
As a rule, they are initially carried out at intervals of three months. In this way, it is possible to take early action against possible new tumor formations or consequences of the treatment. The doctor also checks whether metastases (secondary tumors) have formed. So far, however, there are no laboratory values, such as blood tests, that could indicate a new sarcoma.
If amputations had to be carried out as part of the treatment, the doctor monitors the progress of the rehabilitation measures. Experts recommend a close follow-up of up to five years. The patient should insist on these check-ups out of self-interest.
You can do that yourself
Patients with a sarcoma are exposed to very special living conditions and situations. They are confronted with the fact that their life ends prematurely. In the realm of self-help, there are scarcely enough opportunities to achieve recovery. Nevertheless, the patient should take various measures to improve their situation in dealing with the disease and its side effects.
With a positive basic attitude towards himself and life, the patient can have a significant influence on the course of the disease. Studies have shown that therapeutic approaches are more effective if the person concerned works together with the doctor and believes that their situation will improve. A healthy lifestyle, a balanced diet and mental techniques help to strengthen the immune system and mental strength. In addition, alternative healing methods can have a positive influence on further development.
It is important to promote zest for life and to make treatment decisions that the person concerned is convinced of. Leisure time should be tailored to the physical needs and capabilities of the patient. Open discussions about the situation and the development of health help to cope with the disease. The patient and their relatives should deal honestly with one another and clarify any questions with one another.