Sarcoma Program

At the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, our approach to treating sarcoma is simple… treat the disease as well as the patient. To do this, we have developed a comprehensive multidisciplinary Sarcoma Program, which combines the expertise of an academic program with the touch only a community hospital can provide. Our Sarcoma Program is composed of dedicated healthcare providers and administrators who provide a continuum of care that encompasses the entire patient experience - from education and diagnosis, to treatment and survivorship. 

Our patients have access to:

  • Dedicated expertise in pathologic diagnosis of a variety of soft tissue tumors
  • Comprehensive state-of-the-art plastic and reconstructive surgery
  • Advanced forms of radiation therapy which minimize damage to normal surrounding tissues
  • Latest systemic therapies including individually targeted therapy and immunotherapy
  • Access to patient support programs including nurse navigation, support groups and services, survivorship and nutrition services. 

Our Team Philosophy

At Northside, we believe that cooperative teamwork is vital to success. Because taking care of sarcoma patients is complex and challenging, our patients are treated by a team of specially-trained experts from a variety of disciplines. They use the most innovative, cutting edge and scientifically supported treatment options in treating patients with sarcomas. They also meet regularly to discuss and coordinate the most comprehensive and individualized care possible for our patients. 

Our multidisciplinary team members include:

  • Pathologists
  • Radiologists
  • Medical Oncologists
  • Radiation Oncologists
  • Surgical Oncologists
  • Sarcoma Nurse Navigator
  • Research Nurses
  • Genetic Counselors 

What is Sarcoma?

Sarcomas are rare cancers that develop from connective tissues (stroma) of the body such as fat, muscles, nerve tissue, fibrous tissues or blood vessels. There are many different types of sarcoma, based on the type of tissue in which they originate. It can arise anywhere in the body, frequently hidden deep in the limbs. Some sarcomas may even come from stem cells, or cells that have not formed into a specific type of tissue yet. Unlike carcinomas that are very common and arise from epithelial cells (cells that make up tissue in organs such as the colon and lung), sarcomas account for just 1% of cancers in adults. 

Some of the most common types of sarcoma include:

  • Liposarcoma (fat tissue)
  • Leiomyosarcoma (smooth muscle - causes contraction of intestines, blood vessels, etc.)
  • Angiosarcoma (blood vessel)
  • Fibrosarcoma (fibrous tissue - tendons or ligaments)
  • Gastro-Intestinal Stromal Tumor or GIST (specialized neuro-muscular cells of the digestive tract)
  • Myxofibrosarcoma (connective tissue)
  • Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumors (cells that wrap around nerve endings)
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma (skeletal muscle)
  • Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma (unknown - may be tumor of stem cells) 

The cause of sarcomas is unknown. However, you may have a higher risk for developing sarcoma if you have:

  • A certain genetic predisposition
  • Exposure to chemotherapy or radiation
  • A compromised immune system
  • Come in contact with chemical carcinogens
  • Chronic irritation 

Sarcomas vary greatly in their aggressiveness, size and ability to spread or metastasize to other parts of the body. The best predictor of the behavior of a sarcoma is its “grade.” Low-grade sarcomas are slow growing tumors and generally tend to stay in the part of the body where they originated. High-grade sarcomas are more aggressive and are more likely to grow into surrounding structures. They also can metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body. Intermediate-grade sarcomas can be variable, but are less likely to metastasize than high grade sarcomas. Generally, high-grade and larger tumors are staged higher than low grade, smaller tumors. 

Screening & Diagnostics

A soft tissue sarcoma usually produces no signs and symptoms in its early stages. Determining whether a mass or tumor is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (a sarcoma) can be challenging and often requires a biopsy for confirmation. The size and location of a soft tissue mass will help determine whether or not a biopsy is needed or not. Fortunately, soft-tissue masses are usually benign.

We recommend evaluation for any lump that is:

  • Greater than 5 cm in diameter (the size of a golf ball)
  • Increasing in size
  • Causing pain or other symptoms
  • Growing in a scar where another tumor was removed or surgery performed
  • In a muscle or deeper (rather than just below the skin)
  • Has concerning appearance on an x-ray 

The tests used for sarcoma vary greatly from case to case. Some may require a CT scan or MRI, while others may require a PET scan. These are used to determine the size and extent of the sarcoma, and to see if it has spread to other areas of the body. Your physician also may want to perform a biopsy prior to surgery. Biopsies can be used to obtain a diagnosis as well as for surgical planning and determining if radiation is needed. Biopsies may be performed in the office or by radiologists, depending on the circumstances. 


Sarcoma is a very rare form of cancer, which makes diagnosis, treatment and subsequent management rather challenging. At the Northside Hospital Sarcoma Program, treatment is all about you and our dedicated clinicians offering personalized care plans designed for your special needs and preferences. 

Learn more about treatment options for sarcoma available at Northside.

Support & Survivorship

Cancer treatment and recovery can be overwhelming, which is why, at the Northside Hospital Sarcoma Program we have a dedicated oncology nurse navigator to guide you every step of the way on your journey. Patients also have access to a full range of Support & Survivorship programs and services, from support groups to health psychology, financial counseling and much more.


Northside Hospital - Atlanta

1000 Johnson Ferry Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30342
(404) 851-8000

Northside Hospital - Cherokee

201 Hospital Road
Canton, GA 30114
(770) 720-5100

Northside Hospital - Forsyth

1200 Northside Forsyth Drive
Cumming, GA 30041
(770) 844-3200

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