Our Approach to Sarcoma/Rare Tumors

Sarcomas are relatively uncommon tumors, accounting for 1 percent of all malignancies. Sarcomas are classified according to the histologic tissue from which they are derived, and more than 80 histologic subtypes have been described. This subclassification also includes tumors of peripheral nerve origin. Approximately 80 percent of sarcomas originate from soft tissues, while 20 percent arise from bone. Approximately 15,000 cases of sarcomas occur per year in the United States.

Sarcomas arise in either bone or soft tissue, including muscle, fat, blood vessels or other supporting tissues anywhere in the body. Bone sarcomas often appear in the long bones of the body or around the knee, shoulder or pelvis. Half of all soft-tissue sarcomas occur in the limbs, and 40 percent are located in the trunk and abdomen. They also can emerge in more visible places, such as the face or fingers. Prognosis differs depending on several factors – including the kind of sarcoma, its size, the age of the patient and the stage of the disease.

Sarcomas may be rare in the general population, but they are not rare at Siteman. The Siteman Cancer Center has strong expertise in treating this form of cancer and other rare tumors. Depending on the type and location of the sarcoma, multidisciplinary teams work together to diagnose and devise the best treatment for your specific cancer. Core specialists include: musculoskeletal surgeons, medical, surgical and radiation oncologists, musculoskeletal and interventional radiologists, pediatric oncologists, gynecologic oncologists and sarcoma pathologists. These specialists meet weekly to evaluate treatment options for every sarcoma patient. Additional specialists brought in as needed may include a thoracic, otolaryngology, vascular or colorectal surgeon, neurosurgeon, vascular surgeon or physical therapist to improve patient survival and functional outcomes.

They achieve effective results using an aggressive treatment plan that often includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. For patients with tumors in the limbs, their goal is always limb-sparing surgery, when possible. The dedicated sarcoma team sees hundreds of patients a year; and medical oncologists run a very large clinical trials program. Interventional oncologists oversee one of the largest spine, bone, and soft tissue tumor ablation centers in the country and specialize in treating patients with painful metastatic spinal, bone, or soft tissue tumors. Siteman radiation oncologists who specialize in soft tissue sarcoma use tailored highly focused radiation treatments for patients undergoing radiation therapy.

Experienced nurses then spend time with you, answering your questions and putting you in touch with resources that may help during this stressful time. These nurses offer patient literature on your condition, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and other related issues. As a unique feature of your care, we also offer the services of a palliative care specialist who can help you fit treatment into your own special circumstances, and, if needed, strong psychosocial support for your journey.

Sarcomas vary in size and location, and they require different approaches to biopsy and surgery. Because an improperly performed biopsy can compromise an operation, Siteman’s experienced, multidisciplinary team meets early to plan an approach to each new case. A very thorough knowledge of anatomy is necessary to determine precisely what kinds of incisions can be made and what type of surgery will yield the best result. In fact, when referring physicians have a patient with a suspected diagnosis of bone or soft-tissue sarcoma, they may wish to refer the patient to Siteman physicians for evaluation even before the initial biopsy is performed.

Siteman cancer physicians are actively involved in clinical trials that investigate new chemotherapy regimens, and other approaches to cure. Having your cancer treated at Siteman gives you access to new therapies that are as good as – or potentially better than – current standard therapies available elsewhere.