Sarcomas are malignant tumors in soft tissue and bone. Sarcomas can develop in bones, fat tissue, muscle tissue, nerves, joints, blood vessels and fibrous tissue beneath the skin.

Symptoms of sarcoma vary based on the location of the tumor. Some symptoms include:

  • A lump growing anywhere on your body (usually painless)
  • Worsening abdominal or back pain
  • Pain that seems to be in the bone
  • Visible blood in your stool or vomit
  • Black, tarry stools (this may mean you have internal bleeding)

Doctors at the Indiana University Health Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center diagnose bone and soft tissue sarcomas using one or more of the following tools:

  • Clinical examination. Finds cancerous tumors by physical examination.
  • X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). Takes pictures inside of the body to look for cancer.
  • Biopsy. Removes cells or tissue from affected areas for examination under a microscope.

Sarcoma Treatment

The IU Health Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center is a leader among Indiana institutions in the diagnosis and treatment of sarcomas.

Treatment of sarcoma tumors depends on the stage and location of the cancer. Treatment options for bone and soft tissue tumors are based on the most current treatment recommendations and the needs of each patient.

Possible treatments for sarcoma may include:

  • Surgery. Removes the cancer, and sometimes surrounding healthy tissue or lymph nodes, while saving a limb from amputation.
  • Chemotherapy. Destroys cancer cells with drugs.
  • Radiation therapy. Uses high energy, penetrating waves or particles to destroy cancer cells or prevent their growth.

Radiation therapy treatments may include:

  • Computed tomography (CT) simulation. A radiation planning process that uses a CT scan to define tumor targets and internal anatomy in three dimensions. Radiation oncologists use these scans to target the tumor and protect normal tissue.
  • Four-dimensional CT simulation. A CT simulation that reveals changes to internal anatomy that could affect where radiation is placed. Radiation oncologists use this to aim radiation at tumors and keep it from reaching normal tissue.
  • Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT). Uses radiographic imaging to precisely target tumors and spare healthy tissue in daily radiation treatments.
  • Cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT). An IGRT technique that uses a limited CT scan prior to a daily radiation treatment to verify targeted internal anatomy in three dimensions. This technique places radiation beams exactly where they belong on the targeted tumor.
  • Three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy. A computer-generated three-dimensional picture guides high-dose radiation to a targeted tumor.
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Advanced technology that delivers radiation to targets located near sensitive tissue. This technique uses a computerized optimization algorithm to help radiation oncologists place the radiation in the correct spot.
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT). Special equipment delivers high-dose radiation to a tumor without harming healthy tissue.

You may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of the three. Recent developments in treatment include:

  • Isolated limb perfusion. Delivers chemotherapy in a way that can prevent amputation of the limb.
  • Biologic agents. Agents that destroy tumor cells and prevent their growth by attaching to receptors on the outside of tumor cells. These agents do not cause hair loss or other side effects that are common with traditional chemotherapy.

The CompleteLife Program is also available to educate and support you by caring for your emotional, mental, social and spiritual needs.

Sarcoma Research

Members of the sarcoma team at IU Health Simon Cancer Center participate in international studies and contribute to national and international research organizations. Our research focuses on improving sarcoma care for patients by studying results from previous treatments.

Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for clinical trials only available through the IU Health Simon Cancer Center. Information about cancer research can be found at the Indiana University School of Medicine website.