What Kind of Cancer is Sarcoma?
- Lydia Alwan, now 11, was just seven years old when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her leg. After surgery and chemotherapy, the cancer returned two years later.
- At nine years old she went through another round of chemotherapy treatments and a second complex reconstructive surgery, including a replacement of her hip, femur, and knee. She was declared cancer-free in August 2021.
- Sarcomas are cancers that arise from the cells that hold the body together. They can occur in muscles, nerves, bones, fat, tendons, cartilage or other forms of connective tissues.
- There are hundreds of different kinds of sarcomas, which come from different kinds of cells. The word sarcoma refers to a large array of bone and soft tissue cancers.
Lydia Alwan beat cancer twice and finished up her second round of cancer treatment in August 2021. Now, in the sixth grade and back at school, she enjoys all the normalities of being a pre-teen.Read More
At nine years old she went through additional chemotherapy treatments and a second complex reconstructive surgery, including a replacement of her hip, femur, and knee.
Lydia recounted to CBS 13 News that her fight with cancer “really, really hurt” and was “kind of like its own thing.”
The young girl underwent surgery to save her legs, which involved the removal and reconstruction of a portion of her femur, where the tumor was located. After 18 rounds of chemotherapy, her treatment was completed.
However, the cancer returned two years later, in January 2021, something her mom feared.
“It’s all devastating. It’s so hard to put to words. You know every time she felt pain after she was diagnosed I got that sinking feeling, ok is this it? Is it happening again?” her mom Jessica said.
Dr. Lor Randall, an Orthopedic Oncologist with UC Davis Children’s Hospital, called Lydia and her family’s cancer journey “a remarkable journey.”
“When you look at statistics, the fact that we saved the leg a second time and she is disease-free is truly remarkable,” he told UC Davis Health.
“We ended up replacing her entire femur and for someone, this age to have an entirely metal artificial femur is a big deal because you now have an artificial hip, thigh bone, and knee,” he recalled to CBS13.
Lydia’s mom has seen expressed her gratitude to the medical staff who helped her daughter get rid of rare cancer.
“For two years, Lydia went through procedures and feelings no child should have to experience,” Lydia’s mom explained. “But the expertise and emotional support she was provided at UC Davis Children’s Hospital was beyond compare. They gave us the strength we needed to face our fears and fight.”
Osteosarcoma: What Kind of Cancer is Sarcoma?
Sarcomas are cancers that arise from the cells that hold the body together. They can occur in muscles, nerves, bones, fat, tendons, cartilage or other forms of connective tissues.
“There are hundreds of different kinds of sarcomas, which come from different kinds of cells,” Dr. George Demetri, director of the Sarcoma and Bone Oncology Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, previously told SurvivorNet.
The word sarcoma refers to a large array of bone and soft tissue cancers. Those are then further broken down into more specific forms of the disease, including:
- Ewing’s sarcoma — Cancer that typically occurs in and around the bones, often in the arms or legs, or the bones of the pelvis. It most commonly occurs in children and young adults.
- Kaposi sarcoma — Rare type of cancer that causes lesions on the skin, in lymph nodes, organs and the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and throat. It typically affects people with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV.
- Epithelioid sarcoma — Soft tissue cancer that grows slowly. It’s likely to begin under the skin of areas like the finger, hand, forearm, lower part of the leg or foot.
- Synovial sarcoma — Known also as a malignant synovioma, this is a cancer that can form soft tissues such as muscle or ligaments, commonly close to joints or in areas like the arm, leg or foot.
- Osteogenic sarcoma — Known also as osteosarcoma, this cancer forms in the bone and is most common in young children.
- Spindle cell sarcoma — Rare form of the disease that accounts for less than 2% of all primary bone cancer cases. It’s most common in adults over age 40 and often forms in the bones of the arms, legs and pelvis.
- Angiosarcoma — This cancer appears in the lining of the blood vessels.
- Liposarcoma — This cancer develops from fat cells and often occurs in the torso, limbs or deep within the abdominal lining.
- Chondrosarcoma — This cancer occurs in the cells of the cartilage, mostly in adults over the age of 40.
“Unfortunately, most sarcomas don’t cause many of the symptoms that may be associated with other cancers,” Dr. Dale Shepard, director of the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute Phase I and Sarcoma Programs, previously told SurvivorNet. Shepard also explained that this often leads to large tumors at the time of diagnosis.
“Soft tissue sarcomas are typically painless,” he added. “Bone sarcomas may be mistaken for orthopedic injuries. A mass the size of a golf ball or larger and growing should be evaluated as a potential sarcoma. It’s important that patients who do have symptoms are not dismissive of them.”
Advocating for Your Child
Here at SurvivorNet, we always encourage people to advocate for themselves when it comes to cancer and, more generally, health care. When it comes to a child, the parent must become the advocate.
And even if you’re called ‘pushy’ or people dismiss the concerns you have for your child, it’s important to remember that you never know when speaking up about a seemingly unproblematic issue can lead to a very important diagnosis – cancer or otherwise.
“Every appointment you leave as a patient, there should be a plan for what the doc is going to do for you, and if that doesn’t work, what the next plan is,” Dr. Zuri Murell, director of the Cedars-Sinai Colorectal Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “And I think that that’s totally fair. And me as a health professional – that’s what I do for all of my patients.”
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, April Knowles also talked about self-advocacy and explained how she became a breast cancer advocate after her doctor dismissed the lump in her breast as a side effect of her menstrual period. Unfortunately, that dismissal was a mistake.
Knowles was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at age 39. She said the experience taught her the importance of listening to her body and speaking up when something doesn’t feel right.
“I wanted my doctor to like me,” she said. “I think women, especially young women, are really used to being dismissed by their doctors.”
Figuring out whether or not you have – or your child has – cancer based on possible symptoms is critical because early detection may help with treatment and outcomes. Seeking multiple opinions is one way make sure you are or your child is getting the proper care and attention. You should also try to remember that not all doctors are in agreement. Recommendations for further testing or treatment options can vary, and sometimes it’s essential to talk with multiple medical professionals.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff