Sarcoma is a term used for a whole group of extremely dangerous malignant tumors that arise from mesenchymal tissues. According to the particular origin of the tumor, we differentiate fibrosarcoma (arises from connective tissue), chondrosarcoma* (arises from cartilage), osteosarcoma* (arises from bones), hemangiosarcoma (arises from blood vessels), liposarcoma (arises from adipose tissue), rhabdomyosarcoma (arising from the striated muscles), leiomyosarcoma (grows from smooth muscle cells) and many other.


* Chondrosarcoma and osteosarcoma belong among the bone cancers.


Sarcomas constitute only a small percentage of malignant diseases. They comprise only about 1% of all cancers, but they are dangerous, can occur practically at any age and anywhere in the body.


The cause of a sarcoma is usually unclear, but there are some known risk factors. Genetics certainly plays a role and the incidence of sarcoma is more common in people who have been exposed to radioactivity. There is also a special clinical entity known as Kaposi's sarcoma, which is related to viral infection in immunocompromised patients with AIDS.


It depends on the exact type and location of the tumor. The sarcomas of the limbs can cause joint and bone pain, tumors located in the skin or in subcutaneous tissues may be palpated. Widespread sarcomas with metastases manifest with typical symptoms of advanced tumors including fatigue, night sweats, weight loss, loss of appetite, etc.


The diagnosis depends on symptoms, physical examination and outcome of the imaging methods such as X-ray, ultrasound and computed tomography. When possible, we should try to obtain a sample of the lesion for histological examination to confirm the presence of the tumor and evaluate its type. The individual approach depends on the particular case.


The prognosis of these tumors is generally very poor. They are aggressive and they are frequently found in late stages. The ideal method of treatment is surgical removal of the tumor tissue. When the sarcoma is located in an extremity, its amputation is usually performed. Surgery may be supplemented with chemotherapy or local radiotherapy.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
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