NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – July is Sarcoma Awareness Month, and for good reason.

Dr. Hari Deshpande at Yale Cancer Center explains, “There are only 15,000 cases a year in the whole country and you can imagine with numbers like that, many people don’t even know that it exists.”

The sarcoma specialist says of those cases, there are more than 50 different types of the rare cancer.

He says, “Sarcoma involves the muscle, the fats, the tissue, in-between the skin and the fibrous tissue. It also involves the bone as well.”

Some tumors grow slowly, others are aggressive.

Are there risk factors?

“We don’t know what causes them but there is some, a small percentage, that are hereditary,” says Dr. Deshpande, “We do know that radiation can cause sarcomas so anyone who has had radiation exposures is at a slightly higher risk of getting sarcomas than the general population.”

Are there warning signs?

He says, “Sometimes people don’t know they have it. If they have a sarcoma in their abdomen, it can grow really quite large before they can even feel anything. If they have it on their arm or their leg, they will just see a lump that keeps growing.”

Treatment for sarcoma?

“For the very early stages, the stage I and stage II sarcomas, that’s based on the size, many of those are cured with removing it, sometimes giving radiation and sometimes chemotherapy afterwards,” he says.

And if the sarcoma is detected early, it’s much more treatable.

Sarcoma tends to develop mostly in the arms, legs and abdomen and chest areas.

Dr. Deshpande says if a lump appears and it doesn’t go away, you should have a doctor look at it.

Research for new treatments are ongoing.

There are a number of sarcoma clinical trials underway at Yale Cancer Center.

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