ALBANY, NY (WTEN) – July is Sarcoma Awareness Month, highlighting “forgotten cancer”. Sarcoma is more common in children than in adults, but breast cancer survivors are at increased risk of developing this rare cancer.
Sarcoma is a connective tissue cancer and is divided into two main groups: soft tissue sarcoma — where tumors grow around fat in cartilage, muscles, and joints — and bone sarcoma.
“Any mass that increases, certainly if it’s bigger than a golf ball, should be evaluated. If it is a bone sarcoma, it will often change the integrity of the bones, therefore lameness or pain with activity, ”said Dr. Matthew DiCaprio, director of orthopedic oncology at Albany Medical Center .
He says deeper masses can be difficult to detect and if the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, treatments are poor.
“And these are very toxic treatments, so you will hurt a lot of people and help very little,” he said.
If the sarcoma is localized to an area or limb, it can be cured with surgery, chemotherapy and / or radiation therapy.
“Treatments for sarcoma have not changed for decades. Part of this is that a rare disease really doesn’t get the funding that more common diseases get, ”said Dr. DiCaprio.
That’s why he founded Strong sarcoma—An organization to fund research and raise awareness of this “forgotten cancer”. More common in children, sarcoma accounts for about 15% of cancers in children. But there is also a link between sarcoma and breast cancer survivors.
“When they are cured of their problem, it might be a side thing that develops much later,” he said.
Radiation associated sarcoma is a rare complication of breast cancer treatment.
“If you have lower dose radiation therapy, the risks are much lower if it’s a much higher dose, it becomes a lot more of a problem,” he explained.
Sarcoma can develop in the chest after radiation, but there is a significant delay.
“Definitely, something they should be aware of and have long-term monitoring. And in the long term, I’m talking 10, 20, 30 years after the treatment, so it doesn’t happen a year after, ”he said.
Dr DiCaprio does not anticipate an increase in research funding, but says we can benefit from further cancer research.
“If there are advancements in immunotherapy that are being made for other diseases, we kind of get closer to that and see how they apply to sarcoma,” he said.
He says it will take a basic effort to move the needle to better treatment. Last year’s 5k for Sarcoma Strong has gone virtual. People from 14 countries and 40 states raised nearly $ 100,000 for research. This year’s event will also be held virtually from August 13-15. Click here to register or donate.