Irish Sarcoma Group

What is sarcoma?

Your body is made up of billions of very small building blocks called cells. Normal healthy cells grow at a steady rate but cancer cells keep on growing and multiplying.  This growth can form a lump, which is called a tumour. Tumours can either be malignant or benign. Benign tumours do not spread to other parts of your body while malignant tumours can spread around your body.

Click on the link to see a video of how normal cells can become cancer cells.

Sarcomas are uncommon malignant tumours which occur in bone, cartilage or soft tissues (muscle, nerves and fat). Of these types, the most common is soft tissue sarcoma as four out of five sarcomas are found in these tissues. More than half (60%) of soft tissue sarcomas are found in the leg. However sarcomas can affect any part of your body.

The causes of most sarcomas are unknown. There are some illnesses passed down through families which can increase the risk of having a sarcoma, however this number is very small.

Signs and symptoms

Many people get lumps and bumps and in most cases this is not cause for concern. It is much more likely that there is some other reason for your symptoms, other than cancer. If you notice any worrying symptoms you should speak to your local doctor about these.

Symptoms can vary greatly depending on the type of sarcoma and the following are general guidelines only:

Symptoms of Soft Tissue Sarcomas

A lump is more likely to be a sarcoma if it

  • Is big, for example, more than 4-5 cm across – the size of a golf ball – and especially if it is getting bigger
  • Is deep in the body tissues, underneath the skin
  • Is not painful when you touch it, but pain may be a symptom as the lump gets bigger

It is possible to have other symptoms from sarcoma, depending on where they are in the body soft tissue sarcomas are generally named after the tissues in which they first grow.

More about soft tissue sarcoma

Symptoms of Bone Sarcomas

  • Pain around a bone
  • A hard lump
  • A lump that is growing in size

More about bone sarcoma

Are Sarcomas Curable?

Many sarcomas are curable.

The chances of being cured are higher if the sarcoma is diagnosed when it is small and before it has spread to other parts of the body.

If a sarcoma is going to come back or spread to another part of the body this generally happens within the first two to five years after treatment. If the sarcoma does not come back or spread within five years the chances of it coming back after this are very small.