Understanding Sarcoma Cancer
- A sports-loving 6-year-old boy with a heart of gold recently lost his leg after he was diagnosed with a rare type of sarcoma cancer.
- 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.
- 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.
Saif Mubarak, from Greater London, England, began complaining of knee pain last year, but as his family was preparing for a Christmas trip to Istanbul, Turkey, they assumed his grumbles were just from a minor strain.Read More
“He never complains that he is in pain, he never wants to take pain relief or anything, so I knew when he was complaining of knee pain he really was in pain, but I just thought it was because he had been playing football at school,” she told The Mirror.
But as Saif’s pain grew worse, so did his mother’s concern. When his knee began to swell, Romana took her son to the hospital, and after a series of tests, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his right knee. This type of sarcoma cancer forms in the bone and is most common in young children, like Saif.
“When I was in the hospital with him getting tests done, I never even imagined it would be cancer,” Romana said. “We were in a room with other sick children and the doctor was speaking to the families one by one, he left us until last and brought us into a separate room.”
“That’s when I knew it was serious,” she continued. “My husband (Shane) and son were on a video call with me whilst the consultant gave the diagnosis. My husband was extremely upset; I just took it in and asked what the next steps were.”
Saif began chemotherapy treatment and had multiple blood transfusions, but his parents realized his leg wasn’t going to improve.
“Because of the tumor growing in his leg, after chemotherapy sessions, we realized his leg wasn’t going to get better,” Saif’s mother said.
“We were left with the ultimate decision, we could either keep his leg, but worry about it for the rest of his life, with the fact he would have to have surgeries on it for the rest of his life, or whether we just remove it completely and give him a better quality of life,” she said.
Saif’s parent’s ended up deciding it was best to amputate their son’s right leg.
“I feel as a parent, you must do … whatever is needed to make sure your children are healthy and pain free,” Romana said.
The Mubaraks are now raising money to purchase a bionic leg for Saif. They’ll be able to begin the process of Saif getting his “Iron Man leg” in August. To donate, click here.
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.
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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. (This is the type of sarcoma Saif was diagnosed with.)
- 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. Dr. 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.”