What is Sarcoma?

Sarcoma happens when abnormal cells grow together in the connective tissues and bones to form tumors. Sarcoma is a rare cancer in adults but less rare in children.

Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care for patients with cancer and the diagnosis, treatment and management of sarcoma. You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health.

Signs and Symptoms

Sarcoma symptoms depend upon whether the tumor is in soft tissue or bone. Sarcoma in soft tissue can cause the following symptoms:

  • A painless lump anywhere on the body that does not go away
  • Pain or soreness caused by the tumor pressing on nerves or muscles

Sarcoma in the bone can cause the following symptoms:

  • Pain, swelling or tenderness in the joints
  • Weight loss
  • Persistent tiredness
  • Anemia


To diagnose sarcoma, we ask questions about your medical history and do a physical exam. We then use advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, stage, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition. 

Common diagnostic procedures can include:

Biopsy: A sample is removed from the tissue or tumor for laboratory testing. Testing can tell the physician whether the tissue is cancerous and, if so, what type of cancer is present. Testing will also reveal the cancer’s grade and its potential to become aggressive. A biopsy can be performed with a needle or through a surgical procedure.

Bone scan: This test can identify bone damage, detect cancer in the bones, and monitor problems such as infection and trauma to the bones. For the scan, a small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein, which travels to the bones and organs. Radiation is detected by a camera that slowly scans the body. 

Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of detailed pictures, taken from different angles, are created by a computer linked to an X-ray machine.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A large magnet, radio waves and a computer are used to produce pictures of the bones or connective tissue.

Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: This imaging test uses a radioactive substance called a tracer to look for disease in the body.

X-ray: This test can show the location, size and shape of a bone tumor. If X-rays suggest that an abnormal area may be cancer, the physician is likely to recommend other imaging tests.


Sarcoma arises from an error in a cell’s DNA, allowing for uncontrolled growth of cancer cells. Behaviors and lifestyle factors do not contribute to its development.

Risk Factors

Risk factors that can contribute to sarcoma include:

Age: Sarcomas are more common in children than adults.

Bone disorders: People with Paget’s disease are at a greater risk of sarcoma in the bone.

Family history: If a close relative had sarcoma, a person’s risk for the condition is higher.

Inherited conditions: Certain inherited conditions increase the risk of sarcoma, including neurofibromatosis, Gardner syndrome, retinoblastoma or Li-Fraumeni syndrome.

Previous radiation exposure: Research suggests that exposure to high doses of radiation can increase the risk of sarcoma.


No known lifestyle changes can prevent sarcoma.


The outlook for sarcoma depends on its type, location, stage and if it has spread to other areas of the body. A person’s age and overall health are also factors.

Treatment and Recovery

Sarcoma treatment depends on a person’s age and overall health, location of the tumor and whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Common treatments include:


Special drugs designed to kill cancer cells can be given as a pill or injected into the bloodstream.

Radiation Therapy

High-energy radiation is administered to the affected bone or soft tissue tumor in order to kill cancer cells. Most often, radiation treatments are given five days a week for several weeks.


The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor from the soft tissue or bone. In some rare cases, when the tumor is very large or involves major nerves or blood vessels in the arm or leg, the limb must be removed.

Targeted Therapies

These treatments use drugs or man-made antibodies to block the growth of cancer cells while leaving normal cells undamaged.


Complications of sarcoma can stem from the cancer itself or its treatments and may include:

Complications from treatment: These may include anemia or other blood disorders, constipation, effects on the nervous system, fatigue, hair loss, loss of appetite, mouth and throat sores, nausea and vomiting, pain, problems with thinking or memory, and other issues.

Fractures: Cancerous bones become progressively weaker and may break easily under stress.

Metastasis: Cancer cells can spread through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to other areas of the body.

Next Steps with MyChart

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