As sarcomas are rare cancers, you should always be referred for treatment at a specialist sarcoma unit where a team of specialist doctors and others work together. This is known as a multidisciplinary team (MDT) and will include:
- a surgeon who specialises in sarcomas
- an oncologist who specialises in cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and biological therapy
- a pathologist who specialises in diagnosing disease by looking at body tissue and cells
- a radiologist who analyses x-rays and scans
- a specialist nurse who gives information and support.
The multidisciplinary team may also include other healthcare professionals such as a dietitian, physiotherapist, therapy radiographer, occupational therapist and a psychologist or counsellor.
Your doctors will take into account your general health and the type, stage and grade of the sarcoma when they discuss your treatment options with you.
Surgery is the most common treatment. If the soft tissue sarcoma is small and it is possible to remove it completely, surgery may be used on its own.
For larger sarcomas, and where there may be a possibility of cancer cells being left behind, radiotherapy is usually used as well as surgery. Radiotherapy may be given before the operation to shrink the tumour and make it easier to remove.
It may also be used afterwards to try to destroy any cancer cells that may not have been removed.
Sometimes, radiotherapy is used on its own or in combination with chemotherapy to treat more advanced sarcomas that can’t be removed.
Chemotherapy may sometimes be given before surgery to shrink the tumour. For some types of sarcoma, it may also be given after surgery to try to destroy any cancer cells that have not been removed. Chemotherapy may also be used if the sarcoma has already spread or comes back after initial treatment.
For gastrointestinal stromal tumours, a targeted therapy called imatinib (Glivec®) may be used before or after surgery.