Sarcoma Treatment

Sarcoma is a type of cancer that forms in connective tissues such as cartilage, fat, muscle, bone, nerves and/or blood vessels.

Generally, there are two main types of sarcoma.

The first, referred to as osteosarcoma, is a rare cancer that forms in bone. Approximately 900 new cases of osteosarcoma are diagnosed each year and are more common in children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 30 years old.1

The second form, called soft tissue sarcoma, affects about 10,500 people each year and is found in soft tissues such as fat and muscle.2 While there are approximately 50 different forms of soft tissue sarcoma, the most common are called malignant fibrous histiocytoma, liposarcoma, and leiomyosarcoma.2

It’s important to know exactly the type of sarcoma that is diagnosed as treatment options, as well as responses to treatment, vary depending on the type of sarcoma.

However, treatment options generally fall in one or more of the following categories of therapy:

Surgery is a standard treatment option for sarcoma. Depending on the location of the sarcoma, limb-sparing surgery is usually performed to remove the tumor as well as some surrounding healthy tissue. In some cases, amputation of the arm or leg may be required in order to remove all of the cancer.
Radiation Therapy
Since radiation therapy is not very effective in the treatment of sarcomas, it is usually reserved for after surgical removal of the tumor in order to try to kill any remaining cancer cells. Additionally, it may be used in more advanced stages of the disease to help alleviate pain and discomfort.
Depending on the sarcoma, chemotherapy may be given before or after surgery and may be combined with radiation therapy. There are some sarcomas that respond very well to chemotherapy and others that do not.
Targeted Therapy
If the sarcoma is found to have a specific chromosomal abnormality, the targeted therapy Gleevec may be used in some patients.


  1. American Cancer Society. Osteosarcoma Detailed Guide. Accessed on January 2, 2011.
  2. American Cancer Society. Sarcoma – Adult Soft Tissue Detailed Guide. Accessed on January 2, 2011.

Image: very high magnification micrograph of an alveolar soft part sarcoma.


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