Sarcoma Overview

Sarcoma is a cancer of the connective tissues, such as nerves, muscles, cartilage, joints, bone, or blood vessels. It can arise from anywhere in the body, frequently hidden deep in the limbs. The term sarcoma is used when the tumor is malignant (cancerous). Between 15-20% of all children's cancers are sarcomas. Sarcoma patients need to have surgery in order to remove the cancer often combined with chemotherapy and/or radiation. Sarcomas are often misdiagnosed sometimes being mistaken for sports injuries. When properly diagnosed they may be large and difficult to remove surgically and they might have metastasized. Many sarcomas can resist current treatment. There are over 50 types of sarcomas. In children sarcomas may occur in soft tissue or in bone.

Forms of Sarcoma

Soft Tissue Sarcoma: Soft tissue sarcomas are cancerous tumors that most commonly develop in the arms and legs, but they can originate in any part of the body. Many soft tissue tumors are benign, meaning they are not cancerous and will not spread to other parts of the body. Rhabdomyosarcoma which is found in a type of muscle tissue is the most common type of sarcoma found in the soft tissues of children.

Bone Sarcoma: Sometimes sarcomas can occur in the bone. Although bone is hard, it also contains tissue made of living cells, which can become cancerous. The most common bone tumors in children are osteosarcoma and Ewig sarcoma. 

Osteosarcoma: Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer occurring most commonly in the bones around the knee. The arm bone near the shoulder is the second most common place for cancer to start, but it can start in other bones as well. Like other cancers, osteosarcoma can spread to other parts of the body. This form of cancer most commonly affects adolescents and young adults. Symptoms include pain and/or swelling of a bone or region near the bone. If cancer is suspected based on X-rays or other tests a biopsy will be taken to determine if the tumor is cancerous or benign. The sample will be studied to determine whether it is low or high grade and if it will spread to other parts of the body. Surgery is the most common treatment for Osteosarcoma. 

Ewing's Sarcoma:

Ewing's Sarcoma is a family of bone tumors that includes: 

-Ewing tumor of bone

-Extraosseous Ewing (tumor that grows outside the bone)

-Primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET)/ peripheral neuroepithelioma

-Askin's tumor (PNET of the chest wall) 

Ewing's sarcoma is different from osteosarcoma because it can be treated with radiation. All four tumor cells are similar and are believed to develop from the same type of normal cells in the body. Ewing's sarcoma most frequently occurs in teenagers, and is found more often in males than females. The most common areas affected are the legs followed by pelvic bones, spine and ribs. Pain and swelling are the most frequent symptoms. Diagnostic tools include: Tissue biopsy, X-rays, MRI scans and CT scans.    

Surgery is the most common treatment for Ewing's Sarcoma followed by radiation therapy. Radiation uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Chemotherapy is also used. The drugs enter the child's bloodstream and travel through the body to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by mouth or put in the body through a needle in a vein or muscle. Myeloablative therapy with stem cell support can also be used for treatment of Ewing's Sarcoma. This involves an intense regime of chemotherapy that destroys cancer cells. Unfortunately, normal blood cells and hair cells are also killed. Due to this, stem cell support is necessary following chemotherapy. Stem cells are cells that renew themselves and create other types of blood cells. In stem cell support, a procedure enriches stem cells to increase their numbers in the body.

Facts about Sarcoma

Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer, and accounts for about 3% of childhood cancers

About 400 children in the US are diagnosed with osteosarcoma each year

Ewing's sarcoma accounts for about 1.8% of childhood cancers

Around 150 children and adolescents in the US are diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma each year and most often occurs in children between the ages of 5 and 20

The number of males affected by Ewing sarcoma is slightly higher than the number of females

Contact a CCBF doctor

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call 212-746-3400 to schedule a visit with Dr. Aledo.