Is it sarcoma or just a lump?

July 20, 2017
July is sarcoma awareness month, and while it is less common than other cancers like breast, prostate, and colon cancer, the American Cancer Society estimates that 12,000+ sarcomas will be diagnosed in 2017. Many of us may have heard the word “sarcoma” at some point, and may even know that it’s related to cancer. But what is it, and should we be worried about it?

Sarcomas are cancers that arise from bone or soft tissue. Soft tissue sarcomas occur in connective tissues: fat, blood vessels, nerves, bones, muscles, deep skin tissues, and cartilage. One type of bone cancer, osteosarcoma, is most frequently diagnosed in children and young adults because it occurs in growing bones. Bone sarcomas are also found in the cartilage.

In the early stages, there are few symptoms associated with a soft tissue sarcoma, other than a painless lump. This doesn’t mean every painless lump should be investigated. It is safe to say that the majority of these lumps are benign—not sarcoma, and do not require immediate medical attention. But it is important to tell your health care provider about lumps or growths and, if any of the following symptoms are also present, it is important to see a doctor right away:

  • A new lump or a lump that is getting larger (anywhere on your body)
  • Abdominal pain that is getting worse
  • Increased abdominal girth

For bone sarcomas, pain is the most common symptom. Tumors that are in joints or near joints often cause swelling and tenderness. Tumors can also weaken bones and cause fractures. Other symptoms can be weight loss, fatigue and or anemia. Someone with any of these symptoms should see their health care provider. 

Your primary care provider can perform the initial assessment to determine whether a suspicious lump should be further investigated. And if it is something that needs to be referred for further testing, visiting a multidisciplinary cancer facility ensures access to experienced providers who specialize in sarcoma surgery, radiology, pathology, radiation oncology and medical oncology.  

If you’ve been worried about a suspicious lump or are experiencing persistent pain in your joints or bones, see your primary care provider. If you don’t have a provider, call 1-800-SWEDISH or find one in our provider directory. Access Swedish liaisons will help you find a doctor at any primary-care or specialty clinic within the Swedish network. 

Learn more about the multidisciplinary care offered at the Swedish Cancer Institute




Topics: Cancer