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Cancer Awareness and Prevention

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Understanding sarcoma

Cancer can affect various areas of the body. For those newly diagnosed with cancer, they may be unsure of what comes next, especially if the cancer isn't well known.

Sarcoma is a cancer that some people may have heard about but are unsure of how it affects the body. Sarcoma is the general term for a broad type of cancers that begin in the bones and in the soft, connective tissues of the body. These tissues include muscle, fat, blood vessels, nerves, tendons, and the lining of the joints, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Scientists aren't entirely sure what causes soft tissue sarcomas. The American Cancer Society says that some risk factors can make a person more likely to develop these cancers. Certain genes carry the recipes for developing sarcomas, and these may be present in certain families. However, DNA mutations in soft tissue sarcomas are more so a result of exposure to cancer-causing chemicals or radiation, says the ACS.

Some people may experience no symptoms, while others may develop a lump. Certain symptoms of sarcomas include:

• Pain that affects the local tissues, nerves or muscles.

• Inflammation from tumor growth.

• Inability to move joints or muscles, depending on the location of the cancer.

Other symptoms depend on which soft tissue is affected. For example, tumors in the gastrointestinal system may produce blood that shows up in the stool.

There are more than 70 types of sarcomas, so proper diagnosis and treatment is essential. Visit MayoClinic.org or Cancer.org for lists of the more common sarcomas. Imaging tests, biopsy, and then treatment with radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, or targeted treatments may be advised for people diagnosed with sarcoma, who can speak with an oncologist about their prognosis.

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