Tumor Information

Basic Tumors

What is a sarcoma?

Sarcomas are malignant tumors that arise from musculoskeletal system tissues such as bone, muscle or connective tissue.

What is the difference between a benign tumor and a malignant tumor?

Malignant tumors ("cancers") are capable of spreading to other parts of the body, whereas benign tumors cannot spread. Some benign tumors are called "aggressive" because they can destroy nearby bones and soft-tissues yet do not spread to other body sites.

What is the difference between a carcinoma and a sarcoma?

Most cancers (>90%) arise from "epithelial" tissues, such as the inside lining of the colon, breast, lung or prostate. These are referred to as carcinomas and usually affect older people. Sarcomas are tumors that arise from "mesenchymal" tissues such as bone, muscle, connective tissue, cartilage and fat. Sarcomas occur in young people as well as in adults and comprise less than 1% of all cancers. Sarcomas are named by the tissue of origin; for example, "osteosarcoma" arises from bone, "liposarcoma" arises from fat and "chondrosarcoma" arises from cartilage.

What is tumor "grade"?

In contrast to carcinomas, sarcomas are graded low, intermediate or high grade by the pathologist, who examines the tumor tissue under a microscope. The grade corresponds to the probability of the tumor's spreading to other parts of the body. Typically, only patients with high-grade tumors receive chemotherapy.

How do we make a diagnosis?

In most cases, the patient's history, examination and imaging studies will predict the diagnosis. However, a definitive diagnosis is not made until a biopsy is performed and tissue obtained for pathological examination.

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