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Sarcoma

Sarcoma - How to prevent?

Sarcoma - Treatments

Patients who have sarcoma localised to the organ of origin have surgical removal of the entire cancer and a rim of surrounding normal tissue where possible. In some patients, additional radiotherapy to the site of cancer is required after surgery to prevent cancer recurrence at the same site. This is especially so if the cancer is large to begin with. In some particular subtypes of sarcoma, additional chemotherapy may also be required after curative surgery.

Radiotherapy to arms and legs is associated with redness of the skin and hair loss over the area radiated. Radiotherapy to the head and neck region is associated with temporary redness of the skin, loss of appetite, loss of salivation and dryness of the mouth. Radiotherapy to the stomach region is associated with temporary nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, and occasional gastric pain.

Patients with osteogenic sarcoma usually require chemotherapy to prevent cancer recurrence after surgery. This chemotherapy is given into hand veins and may cause nausea and vomiting, temporary hair loss, lowering of the blood counts and occasional numbness of the fingers and toes. Selected patients with localised soft tissue sarcoma of the limb benefit from cheomotherapy given after the surgery.

In patients with advanced stage sarcoma, chemotherapy can slow the course of the cancer and provide relief of cancer related symptoms. Associated side effects of chemotherapy are temporary or complete hair loss, nausea and vomiting, ringing of the ears, numbness of the fingers and toes, and loss of appetite. More serious side effects may include organ dysfunction (including the hearts, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract) and serious infections as a result of bone marrow suppression.

One particular subtype of sarcoma known as gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST), usually arises from the tissues of the stomach or small intestine. This disease can be treated with an oral medication known as Imatinib, a relatively new medication that specifically targets the mutated protein that causes the cancer, as opposed to chemotherapy that affects both normal and cancerous cells. Imatinib is used both after curative surgical removal of localized GIST, and in advanced GIST.

Sarcoma treatment is usually multidisciplinary, and involves doctors from many different departments. Decisions on treatment are usually made following discussions between all teams involved at multidisciplinary tumour board meetings.

Prognosis of Sarcoma

The primary determinants of prognosis in sarcoma include patient performance status, sarcoma subtype, and stage of disease at diagnosis. This will be discussed individually with each patient during their clinical consultation. In general, patients with earlier, smaller sarcomas have a more favourable prognosis than those who present with more advanced disease.

Sarcoma - Preparing for surgery

Sarcoma - Post-surgery care

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