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What is a Sarcoma Tumor?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A sarcoma tumor is a malignant growth which appears in the connective tissue, with doctors classifying sarcomas as cancers because of their malignancy. Sarcomas can develop in muscle, bone, fat, and cartilage, and they metastasize by breaking off and traveling in the blood to new regions of the body. Like other malignant tumors, a sarcoma tumor can be deadly, and the treatment outcome for the patient is greatly improved if the tumor can be caught as early as possible.

Tumors arise when a problem occurs during cell division, leading cells to start replicating wildly, rather than just replicating enough cells to replace dead and damaged cells. In the case of a sarcoma, the tumor usually starts in mesenchymal cells, stem cells which can differentiate into bones, muscles, tendons, and other connective tissues. As the tumor grows, it produces a lump of tissue which can start to spread to neighboring regions, or distribute itself to other parts of the body as discussed above.

When a doctor suspects that a patient may have a sarcoma, he or she usually requests a biopsy, in which a sample of the tissue is taken for examination. During the examination, a pathologist will look at the sample under a microscope to learn more about it. He or she can confirm that the growth is a sarcoma, rather than a benign tumor, and additional information about the level of malignancy can be gathered as well.

Part of the identification of the sarcoma tumor involves a classification of the type of connective tissue it arose in. An osteosarcoma, for example, is a tumor which started in the bone, while an adenosarcoma emerges in glandular tissue. In the case of a sarcoma which has metastasized to other parts of the body, it can be important to identify the tissue where the sarcoma originally appeared, so that the malignancy can be tracked down and hopefully eradicated.

Treatment for a sarcoma tumor typically includes an excision of the tumor, and the use of drugs which are designed to inhibit the recurrence of the tumor. In cases where the tumor cannot be removed, medications will be used in an attempt to stop the tumor from getting any bigger, and drugs may also be able to shrink the tumor. Both the sarcoma and the treatment can be very painful for the patient, requiring a pain management program and a great deal of communication between the patient and the primary care provider to ensure that the patient's health and comfort are being closely monitored.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon262850 — On Apr 21, 2012

My in law has sarcoma and it has spread from the pelvic area, to the hip and back and is now in the arms. The doctor did an mri and CT scan that my relative has six months -- max -- to live.

By anon205090 — On Aug 11, 2011

my brother has sarcoma in the muscle of his hip and he goes for surgery on the 29th and we are scared. during his biopsy he flatlined and we just lost our dad to cancer and he passed during surgery. my brother said he has had it diagnosed for at least two years so what do we do? how long does he have? can anyone help?

By pharmchick78 — On Jul 24, 2010

@Charlie89 -- Since there are so many different kinds of soft tissue sarcomas, there is no one "general" prognosis.

The prognosis will depend on where in the body the sarcoma is located, and how advanced it is when it is caught.

All soft tissue sarcomas are graded according to severity, from grade one, where the sarcoma is small and has not metastasized, to grade four, where the tumor has grown large and metastasized to distant parts of the body.

The lower the grade; the better the prognosis.

By Charlie89 — On Jul 24, 2010

Does anybody know the general prognosis for soft tissue sarcoma?

By LittleMan — On Jul 24, 2010

One fairly rare type of sarcoma tumor is a squamous cell sarcoma.

Although sarcomas usually form in deeper tissue than the squamous cells, on rare occasions they will form in the skin.

As long as they are caught early and treated properly, squamous cell sarcomas have a fairly good prognosis, although they are prone to recurrence.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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