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Sarcoma Awareness Month 2024: Condition Affects Over 20% of Pediatric Solid Cancers – Recognize the Signs

Sarcomas are a rare group of cancers that develop in bones and connective tissues such as fat and muscles. In India, the incidence of these tumors ranges between 1 to 2 percent. Reports indicate that pediatric sarcomas do occur but awareness about them is relatively low in the country.

Sarcomas primarily affect the arms, legs, and trunk, though they can also manifest in areas like the stomach, intestines, and behind the abdomen. During Sarcoma Awareness Month, it’s crucial to understand the nature of the disease, its causes, and the symptoms associated with it.

According to Dr. Pritam Kataria, Consultant in Medical Oncology at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, “Sarcomas constitute over 20 percent of all pediatric solid malignant cancers and less than 1 percent of all adult solid malignant cancers.”

Risk Factors of Sarcoma

The exact causes of sarcoma are not fully understood. Risk factors may include environmental exposures, genetic conditions, or a combination of both. For instance, individuals with HIV are at an increased risk of Kaposi’s sarcoma due to the HHV8 virus. Exposure to radiation from therapies like radiotherapy has also been linked to secondary sarcoma in some cancer patients.

Symptoms of Sarcoma

Signs and symptoms of sarcoma can include:

  • A palpable lump or tumor under the skin, which may or may not be painful
  • Bone pain
  • Unexpected bone fractures
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unexplained weight loss

Management of Sarcoma

Diagnosis is typically based on clinical evaluation, often involving a biopsy of the lesion. This may include an open biopsy in cases of bone sarcoma, or a guided biopsy using ultrasound (USG) or CT scan depending on the tumor’s location. Additional imaging such as MRI or CT of the lesion, and sometimes PET-CT, may be necessary.

Treatment of Sarcoma

Treatment approaches for sarcoma depend on the type, stage, and extent of the disease:

  • Bone Sarcoma: Initial treatment usually involves chemotherapy followed by surgery and potentially radiation therapy and further chemotherapy.
  • Soft Tissue Sarcoma: Treatment often begins with surgery followed by radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
  • Advanced Sarcoma: Surgical intervention may be the primary treatment, while targeted therapy might be considered in cases where specific mutations are present.

Understanding these aspects of sarcoma is crucial for early detection and effective management, highlighting the importance of awareness and timely medical intervention.

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