Sarcoma Facts

What are sarcomas?

Sarcomas are uncommon cancers that develop in your body’s connective tissues, including bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, nerves, blood vessels and lymph vessels.

Sarcomas are typically divided into two main types, bone cancer (osteosarcoma) and soft tissue sarcoma, the latter of which has over 50 classifications, depending on tissue type affected, such as:

  • Chondrosarcoma (cartilage)
  • Liposarcoma (fat)
  • Angiosarcoma (blood vessels)
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma (skeletal muscles)
  • Leiomyosarcoma (smooth muscles)
  • Synovial sarcoma (tissue surrounding joints)
  • Fibrosarcomas (fibrous connective tissue)
  • Schwannoma and neurosarcoma (peripheral nerve cells)
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma (under skin or mucus tissue in nose, mouth or anus)

What risk factors are linked to sarcomas?

Factors that can elevate sarcoma risk include:

  • Family history
  • Previous cancer radiation or chemotherapy
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Rare genetic disorders such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Rothmund-Thomsund syndrome and retinoblastoma
  • Paget disease: a precancerous condition involving abnormal bone formation, typically found in people over the age of 50
  • Prolonged arm or leg swelling (lymphedema)

What are the symptoms of sarcomas?

Sarcoma symptoms vary depending on the area and tissue type affected, and may include:

  • Swelling or a lump, particularly one that grows over a short period of time (a few weeks or months)
  • Pain, especially with movement
  • Bone fractures
  • Numbness or weakness in a limb
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Bloody or black stools

Although these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, you should check with your doctor to get a definitive diagnosis.

Sources: National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society