Early detection of rare cancer Sarcoma is key to its complete recovery

Days and months are dedicated to build awareness around various factors which have a significant impact on our lives. “In the present context it's the month of July, which is marked as Sarcoma Awareness month,” says Dr Poonam Patil, who is a Consultant - Medical Oncologist, Manipal Hospitals, Bengaluru.

Sarcoma is represented by a sunflower yellow ribbon. The bright yellow colour will always find ways to lighten the dark days for sarcoma. Although, people know much about cancers in general, many are still unfamiliar with sarcoma. Sarcoma is under-researched cancer whose research can help to elevate cancer treatment, as a whole, she says.

Sarcoma is a rare but deadly form of cancer affecting connective tissues such as fat, muscle, nerve, bone, and so on. It is most often found in the arms and legs, where the majority of connective tissues are located, but it can occur virtually anywhere, says Dr Patil.

“Because the disease often starts deep in the body, it may not be noticeable until a large lump or bump appears — and at this point, cancer may be difficult to treat,” she adds.

Sarcomas can be life-threatening when the tumour has spread to other parts of the body or has enlarged. Early detection of sarcoma through regular checkups and appropriate treatment are the keys to complete recovery and also cuts down medical costs comparatively, says the doctor.

According to her, this type of cancer can be seen both in adults and young children. They are rare in the general population and account for less than 1% of all adult cancers. It is more common in children, accounting for around 15% of all childhood cancers.

Its prevalence in the Indian population is estimated to be about 0.9%. 'Earlier the better' is the tagline that suits best for any kind of cancer treatment. An accurate diagnosis can be established based on a thorough physical examination, imaging techniques such as X-ray, CT scan and MRI and a tissue biopsy of the affected area. These tests are also useful in giving us important insights regarding the best treatment options available, says Dr Patil.

Sarcoma is usually managed with surgery. The type of sarcoma, its location, how aggressive the cells are and whether it has spread to other parts of the body are taken into account for the treatment.

“Current treatment options available include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, rarely targeted drug therapy and immunotherapy. Surviving sarcoma is possible if diagnosed early when treatment can be effective and before cancer has spread to other areas. Referral to a specialist sarcoma team as early as possible is essential for patients,” Dr Patil says.

“Lack of awareness leads to slow progress through research and drug development made more challenging. More research is needed to further understand how sarcomas develop and spread, as well as how best to diagnose and treat them,” she adds.

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