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Sarcoma Awareness Month – an opportunity to raise crucial awareness of the 'forgotten cancer'

Frankie Rhodes from the clinical negligence team discusses sarcoma, which is often labelled the 'forgotten cancer'

Posted on 31 July 2019

July marks Sarcoma Awareness month. However more than 75% of people still do not know, or are unsure of, what sarcoma is, and progress through research and drug development is made more challenging by this lack of awareness.

What is Sarcoma?

Sarcoma is an uncommon cancer that can affect any part of the body. This could be on the inside or outside of the body, and includes bone, tendons, muscle, nerves, blood vessels and fatty tissues. There are roughly 100 sub-types of sarcoma.

Every day 15 people are diagnosed with sarcoma in the UK. That equates to about 5,300 people per year and makes up roughly 1.3% of all UK cancer diagnoses.

Sarcoma commonly affects the limbs and trunk. The three main types of sarcoma are soft tissue, bone and gastrointestinal. In the UK 70% of sarcomas are soft tissue sarcomas.

There are often no obvious symptoms of soft tissue sarcomas in their early stages. Symptoms can present as the sarcoma gets bigger or spreads and depend on where the sarcoma develops. There are a number of factors known to increase the risk of soft tissue sarcomas, including age, certain genetic conditions, previous radiotherapy and exposure to certain chemicals. The main treatments for soft tissue sarcoma are surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

In the UK survival rates have been gradually increasing over the last two decades. Almost 80% of people will survive up to one year post-diagnosis and almost 65% of people will survive for three years. The five-year survival rate is 55%.

More research is needed to further understand how sarcomas develop and spread, as well as how best to diagnose and treat them. Surviving sarcoma is possible if diagnosed early, when treatment can be effective and before the cancer has spread to other areas. Referral to a specialist sarcoma team as early as possible is essential for patients.

How can we help with sarcoma?

Although survival rates for those diagnosed with sarcoma are improving, this is contingent on early identification and appropriate treatment. Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis remains prevalent and demonstrates that more needs to be done to ensure that medical practitioners identify sarcoma at the first opportunity. 

The clinical negligence team at Leigh Day represents patients who have experienced issues such as misread test results, delays in diagnosis of cancer and inappropriate advice on treatment options. The team is happy to provide initial advice and have an informal, no obligation, chat with anyone who has concerns about the care they have received in relation to diagnosis and management of any type of cancer.

How can you get involved in Sarcoma Awareness Month?

Join us in spreading awareness of sarcoma to help improve research and drug development for the 'forgotten cancer'.

For more information please visit Sarcoma UK's website 

Frankie Rhodes
Birth injury Brain injury Cerebral palsy Spinal injury Surgical negligence

Frankie Rhodes

Frankie Rhodes is a senior associate solicitor in the medical negligence department.