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Sarcoma is not a single disease

Sarcoma is not a single disease

Sarcoma is not a single disease; it comprises a significant group of separate malignant diseases. The type of cells sarcomas originate from, namely the connective tissue cells, e.g. bones, muscles, tendons, etc., is the common between them. Sarcomas constitute about 11% of the cancer diseases affecting children and approximately 14% of those affecting teenagers. In about 2/3 of the cases, the disease is diagnosed in individuals aged over 50.

The reasons for the occurrence of the soft tissues sarcoma are still unknown. There are, however, some risk factors, which could increase the probability of soft tissue sarcoma occurrence, such as environmental and hereditary factors. This notwithstanding, the larger part of sarcomas develop sporadically, i.e. in individuals in whom such risk factors are not present.

More than 70 sarcoma types have been defined and were divided into two principal groups:

  • Bone sarcomas affecting the bone structure and the cartilage tissue and constituting about 14% of all sarcomas.
  • Soft tissue sarcomas originating from the fatty tissue, muscles, nerves, fibrous tissue cells or the blood vessel cells. They represent about 84% of all sarcomas, 20% of them being gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs).

Sarcomas may affect almost any part of the body, both external and internal, but they mostly affect the arms, legs and the trunk. Approximately 50% of them are found in the limbs, 40% on the trunk and abdomen and 10% on the head and neck. 

Sarcomas also occur in the stomach and intestines, or in the area behind the abdomen known as the peritoneum (retroperitoneal sarcoma), and in the female reproductive system (gynecological sarcoma). Some sarcoma types are more frequently found in children and young individuals, such as the rabdomyosarcoma, the Ewing’s sarcoma, and the osteosarcoma. Other types such as myxofibrosarcoma and chondrosarcoma are more frequently found in elderly patients. The name of the various sarcoma types is usually determined by the type of cells the tumor development initiated in.

The connective tissue tumors may be both malignant and benign. More than 50 different soft tissue sarcomas have been described, whereas the word ‘sarcoma’ in the name of the disease is indicative of its malignancy. Some of them are defined as borderline sarcomas, i.e. they may degenerate to malignant (malignization) or to recur repeatedly in the same place even after their radical resection (recurrence). Cases of benign proliferation of the connective tissue are by far more frequent compared to the malignant sarcomas – 300 cases per 100,000 individuals. The leiomyoma (fibroma) of the uterus, one of the most frequently occurring conditions in women, and the uterine leiomyosarcomas, which are characterized by rare occurrence are a glaring example. This great variety is the most challenging factor to the pathologist in diagnosing the disease. Furthermore, if regardless of the pathologist’s experience they may not have encountered such a tumor, or may have not been trained to treat sarcomas, the disease may easily be misdiagnosed.

Anadolu Medical Centre has differentiated a Sarcoma Specialist Centre equipped with state-of-the-art devices and precise apparatuses, offering multidisciplinary and innovative approaches for patients’ treatment.

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