‘Forgotten’ cancer: What to know about sarcoma

July is Sarcoma Awareness Month

To honor fighters of sarcoma cancer, Brian Billeck, marketing manager for Traders Village also installed a wooden yellow ribbon in the field of sunflowers. (Alicia Barrera, Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Because sarcoma is a rare form of cancer, it has been dubbed the “forgotten” cancer. With July being Sarcoma Awareness Month, here is what you need to know about sarcoma and its signs.

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There are two main types of sarcoma: bone and soft tissue. Sarcoma is a general term for about 70 types of cancers that start in the musculoskeletal system, according to HCA Florida.

Bone sarcoma causes pain that is more evident while someone is trying to rest, but soft tissue sarcoma is usually painless, according to HCA Florida.

“We occasionally see pain with soft tissue sarcomas that arise around specific joints in the body, but that’s likely due to discomfort in the joint because of the mass and not pain from the mass itself,” Dr. Daniel Lerman, an orthopedic oncologist, told HCA Florida.

Each year, about 12,000 cases of soft tissue sarcomas and 3,000 cases of bone sarcomas are diagnosed in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Although sarcoma represents only about 1% of cancers in adults, it accounts for 15% of childhood cancers, according to HCA Florida.

The American Cancer Society lists the following signs for both types of sarcoma:

Signs of bone sarcoma:

  • Bone pain and swelling: The pain often increases with activity and might not be constant.
  • Limb pain and swelling: These are very common in active children and teens and are more likely caused by normal bruises. However, if these symptoms don’t go away within weeks or get worse, see a doctor.
  • Fractures: Bone sarcoma may weaken the bone it develops in, but fractures are not common. People with a fracture near the sarcoma often describe a sore limb for months that becomes very painful.

Signs of soft tissue sarcoma:

  • About half of soft tissue sarcomas start in an arm or leg. Most people notice a lump that grows over weeks or months, and it can be painful or painless in any part of the body.
  • Abdominal pain that is getting worse. About 4 of 10 sarcomas begin in the abdomen.
  • Blood in stool or vomit
  • Black, tarry stools. Blood can turn black while it is digested if there is bleeding in the stomach or bowels.

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Ashley joined ClickOrlando.com in June 2022.