Sometimes referred to as the “forgotten cancer,” sarcoma is a relatively rare malignancy that can present no symptoms at all, making it one of the most life-threatening diseases in the world. In observance of Sarcoma Awareness Month, the goal of this article is to spread more awareness about this disease, beginning with sharing the facts about sarcoma that surprise clinicians and patients alike.
- There are more than 100 types of sarcomas
Sarcoma is a collection of over 100 different types of malignant tumors, meaning it is not just one disease. Sarcomas can develop from a variety of tissue structures — such as the nerves, joints, muscles, fat, bone, and blood vessels — found everywhere in the human body, explains Vivek Subbiah, M.D., associate professor of medicine and clinical medical director at the Center for Targeted Therapy, Division of Cancer Medicine, at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
- Sarcoma affects more children than adults
According to the National Foundation for Cancer Research, sarcoma accounts for only 1 percent of all cancer cases in adults. However, in children under the age of 20, the disease accounts for approximately 15 percent of all cancer cases. Around 1,500 to 1,700 children get diagnosed with a bone or soft tissue sarcoma in the United States each year.
- Many doctors have never met or treated a person with sarcoma
Since sarcoma is such an uncommon disorder, “there might be times when oncologists (doctors who specialize in treating cancer) see one or two cases every year,” says Dr. Subbiah. It’s best that people diagnosed with sarcoma receive treatment at a major cancer center, as treatment requires a multidisciplinary team of medical oncologists.
In addition, even if a patient is getting treatment from an oncologist at a major cancer center, it’s a wise move to get a second opinion regarding the initial diagnosis and treatment plan from a medical professional who specializes in sarcoma.
Due to the rarity of sarcoma in adults, few hospitals offer powerful treatments that target the disease. Here to the rescue, New Hope Unlimited is a reputable provider of alternative sarcoma treatments for adults. If you are searching for non-invasive solutions for sarcoma and other cancers, contact us to schedule a consultation.
- The causes of sarcoma remain unknown
Studies that aim to understand sarcoma are ongoing as there is no single known cause behind the disease. Since sarcoma has more than a hundred subtypes, it is all the more challenging to comprehend. In hindsight, there are some genetic variations specific to sarcomas, according to Subbiah. Aside from certain genetic disorders, prolonged exposure to some chemicals may also increase the risk of sarcoma development in some people.
- Radiation treatment for another cancer may lead to sarcoma
In the 1900s, doctors started using radiation to treat noncancerous medical issues. The medical professionals noted that sarcoma developed in patients treated with high-dose radiation. Today, though some risks and dangers remain present, radiation therapy targets malignant tumors in a more careful manner.
Regardless, “most patients who undergo radiation have a risk of developing sarcoma,” Subbiah explains. Patients who receive radiation to address another form of cancer occasionally develop sarcoma up to a decade later. As such, most oncologists monitor their patients (even in survivorship) with regular screenings.
- Sarcoma may not cause any noticeable symptoms
During the early stages of sarcoma, a patient may not experience any symptoms. If they do, the symptom is usually a painless lump or mass. More rarely, they might experience recurrent pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and blood loss. The only way to detect and diagnose a sarcoma is through a biopsy.
Subbiah adds that most lumps are benign (noncancerous), but it’s still crucial to have a doctor look at them to get a proper diagnosis.
- Once a doctor diagnoses a patient with sarcoma, it is often too late
“The challenge is that sarcoma is not one disease but multiple subtypes that can come from a variety of tissues anywhere in the body. It’s commonly hidden inside the body, so it’s often diagnosed when it’s already too large to expect to be cured,” Sabbiah makes clear.
Practitioners of conventional medicine claim that sarcoma is sometimes curable via surgery if a doctor diagnoses it early enough. In other cases, amputation (the surgical removal of a certain part of the body) may become necessary, although amputations are increasingly rare. Patients may also undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy before and after surgery to eradicate any remaining cancer cells in the body.
If sarcoma has already metastasized (spread) to other areas of the body, certain treatments can help alleviate pain and discomfort, but are unlikely to eliminate the disease fully. Therefore, “the important thing is diagnosis. The earlier we detect (sarcoma), the better,” assures Subbiah.
- The future of sarcoma treatments depend on understanding the causes behind the disease
Subbiah, who spearheaded a successful clinical trial for Radium-223 as a treatment for relapsed osteosarcoma, claims that the key to future research is to pinpoint the genetic drivers behind sarcoma and the molecular irregularities of these rare tumors. Scientists hope to discover and develop screenings and personalized therapies to address the various types of sarcoma, which can be more possible with the support of a multi-institutional, collaborative platform.
The journey will be challenging, but as we look forward to innovative, novel therapies to conquer this cancer, Sabbiah concludes with “we need to understand why people get it in the first place. We need to understand the molecular underpinnings to develop customized therapies.”
- Don’t lose hope because surviving and thriving is possible
Through alternative cancer treatments, beating sarcoma, surviving, and thriving after treatment are all attainable. Here at New Hope Unlimited, our multidisciplinary team of experts specializes in science-based natural cancer treatments that are non-toxic, therapeutic, and effective against the most aggressive diseases.
Before you take the next step, listen to the inspiring stories of our survivors to grasp how they found hope with New Hope Unlimited. When you’re ready, call us at 480-757-6573 to schedule an appointment with our doctors.