Sarcoma Muscle Cancer

A sarcoma muscle cancer is a highly malignant and rare type of cancer that arises in the connective tissues in the body.There are approximately 9,800 new cases of soft tissue and bone sarcoma each year in the United States. It is rare among adults and accounts for less than 2% of all adult cancers. This type of cancer is more common in children and sarcoma is one of the top five most commonly diagnosed cancers among children.

Sarcoma muscle cancer is not the only type of sarcoma seen clinically. Soft tissue sarcomas are malignant tumors that can develop from fat, muscle, nerve, fibrous tissues surrounding joints, blood vessel, or deep skin tissues. Sarcomas can develop in any part of the body. Around 55% to 60% of them develop in the arms or legs. Fifteen to twenty percent begin in the trunk, eight to ten percent in head and neck area and internal organs and around fifteen per cent originate at the back of the abdominal cavity. Sarcoma is the term used for cancers of these tissues.

The human body has 2 types of muscle: smooth and skeletal. Smooth skeletal muscle is found internal organs such as stomach, intestines and blood vessels and causes them to contract. These muscles are involuntary and hence we have no control over their functioning. Skeletal muscle is the muscle is attached to bones and aids in our movement. This type of muscle in within our control and are also called voluntary muscles. Leiomyomas are benign tumors of smooth muscle. They can arise almost anywhere in the body where smooth muscles are present. The most common of these is the fibroid tumor that develops in many women. Leiomyosarcomas are sarcoma muscle cancer of involuntary muscle tissue. They can grow almost anywhere in the body but are most often found in the back of the abdominal cavity and the internal organs and blood vessels. Occasionally, they may affect the deep soft tissues of the legs or arms. They tend to occur in adults, particularly the elderly. Rhabdomyomas are benign tumors of skeletal muscle. They are rare tumors. Rhabdomyosarcomas are malignant tumors of skeletal muscle. These tumors commonly grow in the arms or legs, but they can also begin in the head and neck area and in reproductive and urinary organs such as the vagina or bladder. Children are affected much more often than adults.

Surgery is the primary treatment for sarcoma muscle cancer. The main goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and at least two to three centimeters of the surrounding tissue. In the past amputation of an arm or leg was a standard treatment for soft tissue sarcomas of the extremities. Owing to advancements in surgical practice, nowadays, amputations are performed in only about five percent of cases nationwide. Most small sarcomas can be treated with surgery alone but the majority of sarcomas are greater than five centimeters in size. These sarcomas are usually managed using a combination of surgery and radiation therapy. Radiation therapy may be used before, during, and after surgery.

by Karl Dorads


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