The Alarming Truth
- When 15-year-old Georgia Leslie complained of a red bump on her chest, her doctors suggested she might have injured her bone in an ice skating accident.
- The bump grew to the size of an orange, and Leslie went in to be seen again. This time, her mother had her seen by a bone specialist.
- Leslie was diagnosed with a type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. Three years later, she has gone into remission and she is back in school.
Leslie originally discovered the lump when she leaned against a table and felt a pain shoot through her rib cage. “It only felt sore and looked red, so I looked to see if anything had irritated it and showed it to my mum, who is a nurse,” she told The Sun. “We thought we’d keep an eye on it, but then it started to grow so fast it was five times bigger in just two months, so we went to see the doctor.”Read More
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When Leslie went to an outdoor adventure course and her bump had grown so big that she couldn’t fit into her harness, she decided she needed to be seen again. “It was now the size of an orange. I knew that wasn’t right and that it wasn’t getting better on its own,” she said.
Leslie’s general practitioner was again concerned she had broken her rib, but her mother wasn’t satisfied. She decided to investigate further, and she asked a bone specialist to examine her daughter.
That same day, Leslie learned she might have bone cancer: “My mum came to find me in the hospital and said, ‘I think we’d better go home.’ I knew she should have been working until later that evening, so I asked her to tell me there and then what the doctor had said. She told me he thought it was tumor. I burst into tears. I didn’t know what that meant.”
Leslie went to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham to get more scans, and she learned she did, in fact, have a tumor. A biopsy taken a year after Leslie noticed her lump revealed that she had late stage osteosarcoma.
She wasted no time beginning chemotherapy, and she underwent a difficult surgery to remove her tumor in May 2020. The 18-year-old has gone into remission, but she knows there is a possibility that the cancer will return. “It is a constant in my life, so however much I’d like it to go away, it is always there and I think about it every day,” she said.
Leslie is back at school, and she looks forward to training to be a nurse who works with cancer patients. She has discovered a new sense of confidence after beating bone cancer, and she’s already seeing a difference. “I recently got a job at McDonald’s,” she said, “which doesn’t sound like a lot, but I never thought I’d have the courage to go for something like that. Before I had cancer, I’d have been too nervous.” She tells people who are concerned about their own symptoms to seek help “and don’t stop until you get it.”
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The term sarcoma is used to describe an array of more than 70 rare cancers that begin in the bones and the soft tissues, such as muscles. This diverse group of diseases accounts for only about one percent of tumors in adults and just over 10 percent of tumors in children.
The main symptom of sarcomas is generally a slow-growing, painless mass, but symptoms can be hard to detect as soft tissue sarcomas are typically painless and bone sarcomas can be mistakenly diagnosed as orthopedic injuries.
“Unfortunately, most sarcomas do not 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, tells SurvivorNet. “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.”
Types of Sarcoma Cancers
The word sarcoma refers to a large array of bone and soft tissue cancers, and individual cancers within that set go by unique names. Some of the types of sarcomas include:
- Ewing’s sarcoma is a 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 is a very 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 is a type of soft tissue cancer that grows slowly. It is likely to begin under the skin of areas like the finger, hand, forearm, lower part of the leg, or foot.
- Synovial sarcoma, also called malignant synovioma, 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, also called osteosarcoma, is the most common type of cancer that starts in the bones. This is the type of cancer Langford has.
- Spindle cell sarcoma is very rare, comprising as little as 2 percent of all primary bone cancer cases. It can start in the bone, often in the arms, legs, and pelvis, and usually occurs in people over 40.