Sarcoma | Chris O'Brien Lifehouse

This information has been prepared to help you understand more about sarcoma.

Many people feel understandably shocked and upset when told they have sarcoma. This information is intended to help you understand the diagnosis and treatment of the disease

We cannot advise you about the best treatment for you. You need to discuss this with your doctors. However, we hope this information will answer some of your questions and help you think about the questions you want to ask your doctors or other health carers.

Bone and Soft Tissue Sarcomas

Sarcomas are a group of cancers that start in the bones or the soft tissues (muscle, fat, and fibrous tissues). They are rare tumours, and make up only 1% of cancers in adults.


These cancers often cause a lump or swelling in the affected body party which results in people seeking medical advice. The other common problem especially if the sarcoma has started in a bone is pain or a dull ache, which is often worse at night.


When a sarcoma is suspected, a series of tests are performed to identify the stage of the tumour. This involves MRI and CT scans and X-rays to identify the extent of the cancer in the area where it has started, and whether or not there has been spread to other parts of the body. To work out the exact type of cancer that is present, a sample (known as a biopsy) needs to be removed. Sometimes this is performed with a small operation, while other times a needle can be inserted into the cancer and a sample removed.


Treatment of sarcomas requires the involvement of a team including surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, nurses, physiotherapists along with many others. This is known as a multidisciplinary team (MDT), and members of this team will often work together alongside each other in a specialised clinic. In the background, other specialists, such as pathologists and radiologists help with the interpretation of tests such as biopsies and scans. Treatment for people with sarcoma is individualised. This means that they type of treatment that someone receives may be different to another person with the same disease because of differences in age, other illnesses, preferences, and the precise extent and nature of their cancer. In general, however, sarcomas are treated with surgical removal. Often, chemotherapy is given before and/or after an operation to remove a sarcoma, and radiation therapy is also used on occasions. If you are a patient, it is important to discuss the treatment options that may be available to you with your treating team.

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