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What is Sarcoma?

Sarcoma is a type of cancer that develops in the bones or the soft tissues of the body, including cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, fibrous tissue, or other connective or supportive tissue.

Types of Sarcoma

Sarcomas are categorized as soft tissue or bone sarcomas, depending on where they develop in the body. Bone sarcomas are more common among children, while soft tissue sarcomas are more common in adults.

  • Soft Tissue Sarcomas – Soft tissue sarcomas originate in the soft tissues of the body and are most commonly found in the arms, legs, chest, or abdomen.
  • Bone Sarcomas – Bone sarcomas are primary bone tumors, which means that they develop in the bones.


Signs & Symptoms

Some sarcomas may not cause any symptoms until they grow and press on neighboring nerves, organs, or muscles.

Signs and symptoms of sarcoma may include:

  • A lump that can be felt through the skin that may or may not be painful
  • Bone pain
  • A broken bone that happens unexpectedly, such as with a minor injury or no injury at all
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss

Risk Factors

Most sarcomas do not have a known cause, although several factors could increase a person’s risk of developing a sarcoma. The most common sarcoma risk factors include:

  • Genetic disorders – Patients with a family history of inherited disorders, such as Von Recklinghausen’s disease (neurofibromatosis), Gardner syndrome, Werner syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, or retinoblastoma, have a higher risk of developing a sarcoma.
  • History of radiation therapy. – Patients who have received radiation therapy for previous cancers may have a higher risk of developing a sarcoma.
  • Chronic swelling (lymphedema). – Lymphedema is swelling caused by a backup of lymph fluid that occurs when the lymphatic system is blocked or damaged. It increases the risk of a type of sarcoma called angiosarcoma.
  • Exposure to chemicals. – Certain chemicals, such as some industrial chemicals and herbicides, can increase the risk of sarcoma that affects the liver.
  • Exposure to viruses. – The virus called human herpesvirus 8 can increase the risk of a type of sarcoma called Kaposi’s sarcoma in people with weakened immune systems.

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