Signs and Symptoms of Sarcomas
The manifestation of sarcoma symptoms differ depending on the tissue affected by the tumor, and can vary from one patient to another. But the first sign or symptom of soft tissue sarcomas tend to be characterized by lumps or masses that rarely cause pain, swelling. Presence of a persistent painful lump is often an indication of a sarcoma; although a lump or mass can be benign (non-cancerous), resulting from a different type of cancer or another medical condition.
When it comes to bone sarcomas(bone cancer), Pain is the most common indicative symptom, although certain types of bone cancer can be painless at the beginning. When the bone tumor is painful, it tends to manifest by persistent or unusual pain or swelling inside or near a bone. Nevertheless, a patient cannot base on these indications to conclude he has cancer. Only medical professionals can confirm the disease after diagnostic procedures such as imagine techniques and biopsy.
Sarcoma diagnosis often include the following procedures and tests:
Physical Exam and Review of Medical Record – the first step the oncologist will take to diagnose the sarcoma is performing a physical examination of the patient to check for signs ofthe disease: abnormal masses or other abnormal signs. In addition, he will check the patient’s history to have a better idea of his health habits and past illnesses and treatments.
Blood Test – a complete blood count(CBC) or different blood tests can be performed to detect and measure blood levels of specific markers of sarcomas. The search is after substancesreleased when certain types of tumors are present. Abnormal levels of these markers in bloodare indicative of the presence of the corresponding tumor. For example, the doctor can perform a blood test to measure the levels of alkaline phosphatase, an enzyme involved in bone mineralization and can be found in the blood in abundance during growth and bone repair; but which is also more abundant with the presence of a bone cancer.
X – ray Imaging – X-rays is important to create pictures of the inside of the patient’s body and print on a film. This procedure can help detect the tumor but it is not enough to confirm the presence of the Sarcoma.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET or CT scan) – CT scan allows a health professional to detect malignant tissue or cells in the body. Usually, a small amount of radioactive form of glucose (sugar) is injected into the bloodstream before the procedure to facilitate the visibility of the cancer. Then, the scanner rotates around the patient and takes images of the places where the glucose is absorbed by the body. Malignant tumors, which have a more active metabolism, use more glucose so they appear more intensely than normal cells that use less glucose.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – This medical imaging technique uses a magnet to create a magnetic field and radio waves in order to produce a series of detailed pictures ofspecific regions within the body on a computer. This allows the specialist to detect the location and size of the tumor.
Bone Scan – this is a nuclear imaging procedure which allows the diagnosis and detection of several types of bone disease. To perform this test , the patient is injected by a very small amount of radioactive agent prior taking picture. The radioactive material being attached to the bones , it allows the radiologist to image and determine the size and extent of the cancer.
Angiography – also known as arteriography , in angiography is an imaging technique that helps health professional to detect blockages and other blood vessel problems. During the procedure, blood vessel images are taken by X-ray right after the injection of a substance opaque to X-rays (radiopaque) in the blood vessels . This procedure allows tracing the path of the opaquesubstance and identifies any blockages in the blood vessels.
Biopsy – This procedure is performed to confirm the diagnosis all different types of cancer. Usually, it consists of removal of cells or small tissue sample for examination under a microscope to check for signs of cancer cells.