What are Sarcomas?

 

Sarcomas are malignant tumours that arise from cells that make up connective tissue (bone, cartilage, blood vessels, muscle, fatty tissue, nerves), and can develop at any site in the body. There are many different types of sarcoma, but it is useful to think of them as either soft tissue sarcomas or bone sarcomas. Sarcomas are rare cancers - a GP can expect to see only one or two sarcomas in an entire career. There are approximately 2000 soft tissue sarcomas and over 400 bone sarcomas diagnosed each year in the UK.

There are many different types of sarcoma, but it is useful to think of them as either soft tissue sarcomas or bone sarcomas.

 

Soft Tissue Sarcomas

Soft tissue sarcomas are rare cancers than arise from soft tissues such as muscle, fat and blood vessels. The majority arise in the trunk and limbs but they may arise in specific organs such the uterus (womb), stomach and skin.  Soft tissue sarcomas can occur at any age though are less common in children and the incidence increases with age. In the limbs and trunk the most common presentation is of an enlarging, painless lump.

 

Bone Sarcomas

Malignant primary bone tumours are rare with an overall incidence around 10:1,000,000. The most common tumours are osteosarcoma (3:1,000,000), chondrosarcoma (2:1,000,000) and Ewing's sarcoma (1.5:1,000,000). 

Most patients with bone tumours present with pain (particularly at night or non-mechanical) and/or swelling. Pathological fracture is a less common mode of presentation.