Sarcoma and the importance of early diagnosis

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Sarcoma is a rare group of cancers that develop in connective tissues, such as bones, cartilage, muscles, fat, nerves, and blood vessels.

As sarcoma is rare and its early symptoms are similar to the ones of other more common conditions, it is often difficult to diagnose correctly. A delayed or missed diagnosis can have a negative impact on a your treatment.

What are the symptoms or sarcoma?

Early diagnosis with this cancer is key and symptoms for soft tissue sarcoma include:

  • A lump which may be deep under your skin
  • The lump is usually solid, hard to move around and painless
  • As the lump grows, it can become painful
  • Other symptoms can be present depending on where the sarcoma is in your body, for example you may develop a cough if the sarcoma is near your lungs
  • Persistent fever without any other clear cause

Bone sarcoma can cause symptoms such as:

  • Pain, tenderness or swelling in the area affected by the cancer
  • A reduction in movement if the tumour is close to a joint

The risk of misdiagnosis

Early sarcoma symptoms can mimic those of other conditions like sprains, strains or infections. The fact that they are so rare, less than 1% of all cancers, means that many healthcare providers are less familiar with them so may not consider them until they have exhausted investigating other more common possible causes. Being so rare it also means that people know less about them so are more likely to dismiss symptoms until they get more serious. Finally, diagnosing sarcoma can be a challenge depending on where it is located and can again lead to delays in diagnosis or misdiagnosis with other conditions.

July marks Sarcoma Awareness Month (https://sarcoma.org.uk/sarcoma-awareness-month/) and Sarcoma UK are focusing on action for early diagnosis. An early diagnosis gives the best chance of survival. The charity is funding scientific and clinical research into early detection and diagnosis and is trying to reach out to both clinicians and potential patients to raise awareness of the condition and its symptoms. They also offer emotional and practical support to patients and their loved ones before and after diagnosis.

If you notice any of the above symptoms you should get checked out by your GP as soon as possible. Your GP will examine any lumps and may arrange for further testing, including blood tests, an ultrasound scan, an x-ray, or a biopsy. If sarcoma is suspected, you will be referred to a specialist doctor in hospital.

We are here to help

Unfortunately medical treatment does not always go right, and there may have been missed opportunities by your GP or a specialist doctor to diagnose your sarcoma. Your symptoms may have been missed, or you may have experienced a very long wait until diagnosis which meant that early detection was not possible. A delay in diagnosis may result in metastases (the cancer spreading to other parts of your body) or an increased risk of amputation.

Enable Law specialises in medical negligence, and we are here to advise and help you if you have concerns about the treatment of your cancer care. Should you have any concerns regarding your medical care and for a free and confidential discussion, contact us  on 0800 044 8488 or fill in our contact form here and we will call you back Contact Us – Enable Law

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