• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Did you ever see a coach signal ‘time out’? It’s a distinctive hand signal.

I see it used mostly in jest between peers, among many that are younger than I am, as in “TOO MUCH INFORMATION”! – STOP - that is too personal, too complicated or not really what I asked - accompanied with the statement T-M-I !!!

Some days I wish I could do that – signal ‘time out’ – TMI – I don’t want to know - except I do. I just wish I didn’t. Basically I am of a decently curious ilk but there are things I don’t think about, search out or learn until it affects me personally.

Being diagnosed with possible ‘sarcoma’ is one of those things – are you serious? POSSIBLE! really? Oh – and now the specialist of specialists thinks this thing (15cm x 9cm x 8cm – visualize your two fists side by side and fit them into a muscle in your thigh) is definitely NOT a sarcoma but is only a benign atypical lipoma – am I supposed to shout for joy? Kiss the clinically sterile pronouncing face in relief? What do you do with this kind of news – of both kinds?

I learn things I never really wanted to know. I ask for second and even third opinions. And then I make decisions – decisions I never really wanted to need to make.

If you don’t want to know, TMI, click the X at the top of the page now. Below is actually the good news – and TMI.

And BTW – if this isn’t TMI simply copy any one of the terms below into your browser and then click on every linked word you see – you should be able to reach your personal TMI threshold easily.

The division of cells to produce new ones is under tight control by the "genes" within each cell. These genes are made up of DNA, and if it becomes damaged, that cell may start dividing out of control. Soft Tissue Cancer starts in a single cell which has become abnormal. This cell produces millions, and eventually billions, of copies of itself. The copies are called" clones". These clones fail to function as normal body tissue, but instead divert resources from healthy cells to fuel their own growth. When there are about 1 billion cells, they form a clump, or "tumor" 1/2 inch across. A "tumor" merely means a swelling; it can be caused by infection, inflammation, cancer or whatever.

If a tumor can only grow in its local area (even very large) but does not have the capacity to spread to distant body areas, it is called "benign" and is not cancer. If, however, the tumor has the ability to spread to distant body areas, it is called "malignant" and this is cancer. The actual process of spread is called" metastasis", and can occur to any area of the body.

For benign Soft Tissue tumors, they are commonly given the suffix "oma" The most common types of benign tumor are "Lipoma " (from fat), "Leiomyoma " (from smooth muscle) and "Fibroma " (from fibrous tissue). These benign tumors may grow very large, but they will never "metastasize" (spread distantly) and so are not considered "cancer". Simply removing them surgically should be curative, and if surgery is not practical then radiation therapy will often shrink them. Unless they are disturbing body function or cosmetic appearance, they often require NO THERAPY.

For malignant Soft Tissue tumors, they are commonly given the suffix"sarcoma." This means a cancer that has arisen from the mesenchymal tissue, as opposed to "carcinomas", which develop from the body's lining tissues and organs. Any tumor that is called a "sarcoma" is cancerous, but not all cancerous mesenchymal tumors end with "sarcoma ”. However, the common ones do, and include "Liposarcoma"(from fat cells), "Rhabdomyosarcoma" (from skeletal muscle cells), "Leiomyosarcoma" (from smooth muscle cells), "Fibrosarcoma" (from fibrous cells) and "Chondrosarcoma" (from cartilage cells). "Osteosarcoma" is the most common bone cancer, but is not considered a"Soft Tissue Sarcoma" and is discussed as a "Primary Bone Tumor."

 Other, rarer types of Soft Tissue Sarcoma (which may or may not have the word "sarcoma" in them) include "Angiosarcoma" (divided into Hemangiosarcoma and Lymphangiosarcoma-- from blood or lymph vessels), "Hemangiopericytoma"(also from a blood vessel cell),"Mesothelioma" (from abdominal or lung linings), "Synovial Sarcoma" (from joint linings), "Neurofibrosarcoma" (from nerve sheaths), "Kaposi'sSarcoma (origin uncertain) and "Malignant Fibrous Histioctyoma" (from fibrous tissue). Some of the above are more aggressive than others, but they are all cancer!

How Common is Soft Tissue Sarcoma?
Each year in there about 8,000 new cases of "Soft Tissue Sarcoma" in the United States, which cause approximately 2,500 deaths per year. Thus, they represent ~1% of all new cancers. Soft Tissue Sarcoma is about 3 times more common than Bone Sarcoma. There are two "peaks" of most common patient age, one in childhood at 10 years old and the other in 40 year old adults. Thus Sarcomas are unlike the other major type of cancer, "Carcinomas" (e.g. breast, lung, prostate, colo-rectal) which all tend to get more likely as we age. Males and Females are overall equally affected by Sarcomas. In children, the most common type of Soft Tissue Sarcoma is "Rhabdomyosarcoma" (from skeletal muscle cells), which occur mostly in the Head and Neck areas. In adults, the most common type is now "Fibrosarcoma"or "Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma", which tends to occur in the trunk or extremities. In contrast to childhood cases, the least common area for adult sarcomas is in the Head and Neck area. Overall, the number of new cases of Soft Tissue Sarcoma has remained stable for the past 3 decades.

The common underlying factor is damage to "DNA" which causes the affected cell to become "transformed" -- that is lose control over it's division. Cancer is ultimately a disease of the DNA! The DNA is packed into thousands of "genes", which are themselves located upon the 48 "chromosomes" (46 general plus 2 sex chromosomes) that all healthy humans have in every cell. The chromosomes become visible under an ordinary light microscope when cells divide, and nearly every case of Sarcoma shows chromosome damage. This damage usually includes pieces missing from chromosomes ("deletions"), or even parts of one chromosome getting stuck onto another ("translocations") Overall, anything which can damage DNA, the fundamental genetic material, will increase the risk of a cell turning cancerous. This damage may be "latent", meaning a cancer may arise many years or decades after the damage occurs.

Can Sarcomas Be Prevented?
There is no sure way to prevent sarcomas. It is always a good idea to avoid unnecessary exposure to potential carcinogens and avoid unwarranted X-rays. This is especially true for patients with family susceptibility to cancers, or who actually have genetic diseases.
If a worrisome sign or symptom arises (see below) it should be evaluated promptly, and not ascribed to some benign process without proof. Eating a diet with enough vitamin C ("Ascorbic Acid") is important for proper maintainance and healing of soft tissues. Vitamin C deficiency results in a breakdown of the soft tissues ("scurvy"), since it is essential for crosslinking their crucial collagen proteins. However, taking too much can also be harmful by causing the blood to become too acidic ("ascorbic acidemia"). A standard supplement multi-vitamin is well advised.

The human muscular system is incredibly engineered, providing for body support, movement, and the storage of sugar energy in the form of glycogen. There are 3 basic types of muscle in the body: Skeletal Muscle for voluntary movement, Smooth Muscle for involuntary processes like digestion, and Cardiac Muscle in the heart. Normally the muscles are a very trouble-free system, maintained by simple activity and exercise. Rarely, however, cancers called "sarcomas" arise from muscle. Smooth muscle gives rise to "myosarcoma", and skeletal muscle to "rhabdomyosarcoma". see also: Pleomorphic type or pleomorphism. Usually seen in adults and arises in muscles of the extremities

It is crucial to get prompt diagnosis and proper treatment for a muscle cancer problem. This can make the difference between keeping or losing a limb, or even between life and death. Fortunately, recent advancements in therapy make limb loss less likely, and cure more like, than ever before. Understanding your options for a Muscle Cancer problem will give you the peace of mind of knowing you have done everything possible to help ensure a happy outcome.

'CancerAnswers' material explains, in plain English, the definition, types, frequency, risk factors, symptoms, evaluation, historic and latest effective treatment for Muscle Cancers. We tell you everything you must know to make the right choices today to deal with a Muscle Cancer problem.