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NHCI provides expert sarcoma care and treatment

The Northside Hospital Cancer Institute (NHCI) Sarcoma Program offers comprehensive, multidisciplinary cancer care, sub-specialized clinical expertise and a personalized approach to cancer care. Our Program combines the expertise of an academic center with the touch only a community hospital can provide. We offer patients 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, behavioral health services and nutrition services.

What Is Sarcoma?

Sarcoma is a rare cancer, which develops from connective tissues or bone and can arise anywhere in the body. Sarcoma accounts for only 1% of cancers in adults. There are two main types of sarcomas:

Soft tissue sarcoma (STS) forms from connective tissues of the body and can arise in any organ where these tissues exists, such as fat, muscles, nerve tissue, fibrous tissue, tendons, lymph vessels and blood vessels. There are many different types of sarcomas and they are classified based on their location and the type of soft tissue from which they form.

Soft tissue sarcoma can form almost anywhere, but is most common in the:

  • Head
  • Neck
  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Trunk
  • Abdomen

Learn more about soft tissue sarcoma.

Osteosarcoma, also called bone sarcoma and bone cancer, is the most common primary malignant cancer of the bone. They are uncommon tumors with approximately only 900 cases diagnosed each year in the United States, half of which arise in children and adolescents younger than 20 years of age. Osteosarcomas are classified by their size, location and growth rate.

Symptoms of Sarcoma

In the early stages of soft tissue sarcoma, there are often no signs or symptoms. As the cancer grows, it may cause a lump or swelling that keeps growing over time. Most lumps are NOT cancer. When it comes to osteosarcoma, they present as pain or fractures. They occur most often in larger bones but can arise in any bone.

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute recommends evaluation for any lump that is:

  • Greater than five centimeters in diameter (the size of a golf ball)
  • Increasing in size
  • Causing pain or other symptoms
  • Growing within a scar where another tumor was removed or surgery was performed
  • In a muscle or deeper (rather than just below the skin)

Symptoms of sarcoma include:

  • Pain, if the tumor is pressing on a nerve, organ, blood vessel or muscle
  • Blockage or bleeding in the stomach or intestines
  • Breathing problems

Learn more about sarcoma symptoms.

Sarcoma Risk Factors

It is unknown what causes most sarcomas, so there is no known way to prevent them. Certain risk factors may lead to a person developing a soft tissue sarcoma:

  • Radiation given to treat other cancer
  • Familial cancer syndrome
  • Exposure to chemical carcinogens
  • Chronic irritation

Knowing sarcoma risk factors and telling a medical provider when symptoms are first noticed can increase a person’s chance of surviving soft tissue sarcoma.

Diagnosing Soft Tissue Sarcoma

At Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, our physicians are experts in the pathologic diagnosis of a variety of soft tissue tumors and sarcomas, and bone sarcomas.

We provide a compassionate, full spectrum of care to patients with:

  • Soft tissue sarcomas of the head and neck and trunk
  • Retroperitoneal sarcomas
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST)
  • Fibromatosis (desmoid tumors)
  • Rhabdomyosarcomas
  • Osteosarcomas

The tests used for diagnosing sarcoma vary greatly from case to case. Some may require a CT scan or MRI, while others may require a PET scan or bone scan. The findings from these procedures are used to determine the size and extent of the sarcoma, and to see if it has spread to other areas of the body. In some cases, a patient's doctor 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 upon the circumstances.

Team of Sarcoma Specialists

The strength of Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s Sarcoma Program is our multidisciplinary team of dedicated sarcoma specialists and oncology support services team members. Our expert medical teams work together every step of the way to provide individualized care for each soft tissue sarcoma patient. Northside’s sarcoma specialists and oncology care team members offer a comprehensive scope of medical services, the latest technology, leading-edge clinical research and compassionate support.

Our multidisciplinary team of sarcoma specialists consists of:

  • Surgical oncologists
  • Orthopedic oncologists
  • Plastic reconstructive surgeons
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Pathologists
  • Radiologists
  • Certified genetic counselors
  • Sarcoma nurse navigator
  • Sarcoma research nurses

NHCI’s Sarcoma Program holds weekly multidisciplinary cancer conferences to provide a forum for sarcoma specialists to review radiology and pathology images and discuss the best sarcoma treatment options, including clinical trials, and agree upon an evidence-based treatment plan for each patient. Because NHCI physicians come together to prospectively discuss each sarcoma case during conference, sarcoma patients get the benefit of not just one clinical perspective but more than a dozen expert opinions.


Sarcoma Treatment Options

The treatment of a sarcoma depends on the type, location, size and extent of the cancer. Surgical resection or a complete removal of the sarcoma by a surgical oncologist is an essential part of any curative treatment. Radiation therapy may be used prior to surgery, particularly for larger sarcomas of the extremity, or following surgery. Radiation is used to decrease the size of the tumor prior to operating or to allow preservation of important structures near the tumor, such as bone or nerves. Chemotherapy is used less frequently in the treatment of sarcomas, and generally limited to treatment of sarcomas that have metastasized. It is also sometimes used in conjunction with radiation.

Sarcoma Support & Survivorship

For anyone facing sarcoma treatment and recovery, ongoing cancer support is crucial. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s Sarcoma Program provides a full range of sarcoma support and survivorship programs and services to address the unique needs of each sarcoma patient.

Sarcoma treatment and recovery can be overwhelming, which is why the NHCI Sarcoma Program has an oncology nurse navigator to support, educate and guide patients every step of their cancer journey – from diagnosis and treatment to recovery. Our sarcoma nurse navigator is a registered nurse with extensive knowledge and training in oncology. Nurse navigators are available to help guide patients after diagnosis and through treatment, educating and supporting them to make informed decisions.

Our oncology nurse navigators facilitate access to Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s comprehensive portfolio of patient support services and they work with radiologists, surgeons, oncologists and other providers to coordinate a personalized sarcoma treatment plan based upon each patient’s unique needs.

To speak with an oncology nurse navigator, please call 404-300-2800 or email [email protected].

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute provides a full range of Support and Survivorship programs and services to address the unique needs of sarcoma patients.

Upcoming Sarcoma-Related Events

July 26, 2023: Sarcoma Awareness Sunset Stroll

Click below to register for this year's Sarcoma Awareness Sunset Stroll