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What is sarcoma?

Sarcoma makes up approximately 1% of all cancer diagnoses, around 500 cases are diagnosed each year in Taiwan. They are rare cancers that develop in the muscle, bone, nerves, cartilage, tendons, blood vessels and the fatty and fibrous tissues. The initial presentation of sarcoma is mostly painless mass. Sarcomas commonly affect the arms, legs and trunk. However, they can affect almost any part of the body. They are most often diagnosed around age 50 to 60, slightly more males then females. 

Treatment of sarcoma

There are more than 50 sub-types of sarcoma. Treatment of sarcoma is based on the sub-type you have, the grade of the tumor, the stage of disease, and the surgical margin status. Despite the many different sub-types of sarcoma, the general pattern of treatment is similar. Combined modality treatment, including surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, is often involved in the treatment of sarcoma. Surgery is commonly viewed as the main treatment for a ‘cure’. Historically, excision of sarcoma is likely to recur, so the treatment of sarcoma often involved amputation. However, after series of studies, current initial approach of sarcoma is changed to limb sparing surgery. The addition of radiotherapy can improve local control of these patients.

Radiotherapy of sarcoma

Radiotherapy is mostly used in large, deep, high grade tumors, or patient with positive or close surgical margin. A course of radiotherapy often takes about 1.5 months. Advances in radiotherapy technology, such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) or image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT), have led to the improvement of treatment outcomes in patients with sarcoma. In addition to the X-ray based radiation therapy, there is the latest proton therapy. The physical properties of proton therapy made it possible to reduce unnecessary radiation dose to normal tissues, resulting in reduced treatment side effects. 

Article author: Dr. Din-Li Zan