Soft Tissue Sarcoma in Adults

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Soft tissue sarcomas are malignant tumors that form in almost any part of the body, developing from fat, blood vessels, nerve, and deep skin tissues. These uncommon tumors can vary from patient to patient. One of the nation's leading sarcoma experts, Dr. Chappie Conrad, joins this special webcast to answer your questions on the latest in soft tissue sarcomas in adults. Dr. Conrad is Professor and Co-Vice Chair of Orthopedic Services at the University of Washington Medical Center and a member of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. He will help us understand how inherited disorders can increase the risk of developing soft tissue sarcomas, what happens after you are diagnosed, current treatment options and recovery.

The discussion begins with understanding clinical indicators of soft tissue sarcomas, subtypes of sarcoma, and manifestation differences of sarcoma in adults and children. Dr. Conrad also touches on what makes some sarcomas operable and others inoperable. Andrew asks Dr. Conrad some of the more pressing questions from patients like: Other than surgery, what treatments are used for soft tissue sarcomas? Why does the origin of sarcomas remain a mystery? How likely is my child to develop sarcoma if I am diagnosed with it? Hear the answers to all of these questions and more in a webcast geared towards bringing you a step closer to understanding what a soft tissue sarcoma diagnosis means for adults. Dr. Conrad speaks in-depth about clinical trials and research being conducted to advance treatment for adults with soft tissue sarcomas.

Dr. Conrad points out some important steps patients should follow to help themselves through the difficulties of a sarcoma or any cancer diagnosis. In Dr. Conrad’s words, “My greatest advice to patients is to champion their own care and not be bashful about that. That's their own care or the care of their loved ones. They should be getting reasonable conversations from whoever is taking care of them.”

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Andrew Schorr:

Hello and welcome to another edition of Patient Power sponsored by the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. I'm Andrew Schorr. One of the cancers that is less common but certainly concerning in children and also in adults is sarcoma, and there are many different types and certainly there's a lot of expertise at the University of Washington and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance about it, about 10,000 new cases a year in the US. One of the leading experts is at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and that is Dr. Chappie Conrad. Dr. Conrad is professor and co vice chair of the orthopedics department at the University of Washington and also the director of the Sarcoma Service at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Dr. Conrad, when we talk about sarcoma I know that it can be cancer in the bone but it also can be in the soft tissue. When we say soft tissue, what do they mean? What does it look like and how can it show itself?

Dr. Conrad:

Well, we like to tell the patients it's the tissues that hold you together. It's the connective tissues, so it's muscles, tendon, arteries, nerves, all the tissues that are not glandular tissues.

Andrew Schorr:

Well, for someone listening, what would it feel like? Like you feel a little lump, does that necessarily mean it's cancer, or do these distinguish themselves in some way?

Dr. Conrad:

They distinguish themselves mostly by the size of the lump. If you have a lump bigger than a couple of inches it's probably something that needs to be imaged.

Andrew Schorr:

Now, there are benign or nonmalignant lumps like that just in fatty tissue or things like that. How do you differentiate what is a malignancy and really needs to be dealt with more aggressively?

Dr. Conrad:

There are two or three clinical signs that we use when we're looking at a lump. Obviously there are lots of people with small lumps that are not cancer. And those clinical signs involve the size of the tumor. A sarcoma is more likely to be a couple of inches in size rather than a half an inch or smaller than an inch. The density of the tissue, usually the tissue is firm if it's a sarcoma. It's firmer than normal muscle. And they don't usually hurt. It's usually nontender so pain is not a sign of malignancy when it comes to a soft tissue sarcoma.

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