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Sarcoma Symptoms, Risks, and Diagnosis

Sarcoma Symptoms and Signs

Sarcoma symptoms vary from person to person and are often based on the tumor size and structure it affects.

For instance, a sarcoma on or near the heart can cause:

  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fatigue.

Many times, bone and soft tissue cancers don't cause symptoms other than swelling or pain.

When they do, symptoms may include:

  • Trouble with daily functioning (breathing, eating, walking).
  • Painless or painful mass or lump.
  • Stiffness or problems moving.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fractures.

Sarcoma Risk Factors

Risk factors increase a person's chance of getting cancer. Sometimes, changing habits or jobs can lower sarcoma risk factors.

Sarcoma often doesn't relate to an exact cause, but some risk factors can increase your chance of getting it.

Bone cancer risks may include:

  • Exposure to dioxin or vinyl chloride monomer.
  • Genetic diseases.
  • Gardner syndrome.
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome.
  • Neurofibromatosis type 1.
  • Nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome.
  • Retinoblastoma.
  • Tuberous sclerosis syndrome.
  • Werner syndrome.
  • Past radiation treatment for cancer.

Sarcoma Diagnosis

A proper diagnosis is vital to the successful treatment of bone and soft tissue cancers.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center experts use state-of-the-art tools and techniques to diagnose and stage sarcoma.

Pathologists at UPMC are integral to our sarcoma care team.

Besides imaging, our experts perform biopsies to get tissue samples for testing.

Imaging tests to diagnose sarcoma

Scans to help your doctor diagnose bone or soft tissue cancer may include:

  • CT — this imaging test shows a 360° view of the body and 3D images. CT scans have more detail than basic x-rays and take more precise pictures.
  • MRI — this test uses radio waves and a strong magnet to create cross-sectional pictures.
  • Radiographic tests — this test combines x-rays with computer technology to produce detailed pictures. You may need a shot with dye to make the pictures easier to view.

Biopsies to diagnose bone and soft tissue cancers

There are two types of biopsies: minimally invasive needle and open.

Often, we can do a minimally invasive needle biopsy, but some sarcomas may require the open method.

  • Needle biopsy. The doctor inserts a long, hollow needle through the skin to the area of the bone tumor. They remove a small piece of tissue and send it to the lab. There, a pathologist looks at the sample under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells.
  • Open biopsy. You'll have general anesthesia for this method. The surgeon makes an incision to remove a piece of tissue from the tumor and sends it to the lab.

Your doctor will decide which type of biopsy is best for you.

Staging Bone and Soft Tissue Cancers

Staging helps each member of your sarcoma care team know the exact type, size, location, and spread of the cancer. It's also vital for helping us decide the best way to treat it.

Your care team will conduct tests and procedures to classify the type and stage of your sarcoma.

There are four factors based on the American Joint Committee on Cancer system we assess to learn the stage of cancer:

  • T = Tumor. Features like its size and if it's in more than one place on the bone.
  • N = Nodes. The spread of cancer to lymph nodes.
  • M = Metastasis. The spread of cancer to distant organs.
  • G = Grade. How abnormal the cells look under a microscope.

Each factor T, N, M and G gets a stage number.

Then, in a process called stage grouping, we add the numbers from each factor to assign an overall stage to the cancer. We use Roman numerals I to IV.

Stage I sarcoma is the least invasive and Stage VI is the most advanced.

Sarcoma Prognosis and Outcomes

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in southwest and central Pa.

Our experts look at more than just the stage or type of bone cancer. They also keep in mind factors that affect your wellbeing.

Nutrition and pain specialists work alongside cancer doctors and others to make sure the focus is on you — not your disease.

Your sarcoma prognosis will depend on many factors, including:

  • Your diagnosis.
  • Your total health.
  • How well your sarcoma care team expects your treatment plan to work.

Our experts will work at their highest level with an eye toward achieving the best outcome possible.

Contact Us About Sarcoma Care

To learn more about sarcoma care or to make an appointment, you can: