Skeletal, muscle, tendon, connective tissue and other so-called support tissues are called sarcomas. Skeletal sarcoma is called skeletal cancer. Sarcomas that are not in the skeleton are called soft tissue sarcomas.
Soft tissue sarcoma
Soft tissue sarcomas can be of different types. For example, fibrosarcoma is a type that grows in the connective tissue while rhabdomyosarcoma grows in skeletal muscle. Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma in children and comes in two forms:
- Embryonic rhabdomyosarcomas are most common. The children who get the disease are often small.
- Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma is more common among slightly older children and teens.
Most children with soft tissue sarcomas who have not spread to the body when diagnosed get rid of the disease. Most often, embryonic rhabdomyosarcoma has a better prognosis than alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma but things like the child’s age, where the cancer tumor is located and how large it is also have significance.
Sarcoma within the skeleton itself is called skeletal cancer. The most common type is called osteosarcoma. It is a cancer tumor that usually sits around the knee joint or at the shoulder. The disease usually occurs in the teens.
Another form of skeletal cancer is Ewing’s sarcoma, which is more common in any younger child than osteosarcoma. Ewing’s sarcoma can sit, for example, in the pelvis or chest.
Most children and adolescents with skeletal cancer where the disease has not spread in the body get rid of the disease.
Because sarcoma can occur in so many places in the body, the symptoms also look different. The child may have been in pain for a long time without a clear cause, or have a swelling under the skin that does not go away by itself. Some children may break a bone in an unusual way.
The symptoms may have causes other than cancer.
Usually, the child may first undergo a regular X-ray examination . The child is also usually examined with a magnetic camera and is allowed to submit a tissue sample, also called a biopsy. In addition, various studies are done to see if the cancer has spread in the body, for example an X-ray examination of the lungs or an isotope examination of the skeleton. Isotope investigation is also called scintigraphy. Then a special liquid with a little radioactivity is injected into the blood. If there are metastases in the skeleton, the fluid is collected there. The doctor can see that with a so-called gamma camera. The examination takes a few hours and the child is usually lying down all the time. A parent may be present at all times.
Treatment for soft tissue sarcoma
Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma in children. It is primarily treated with cytostatic drugs to shrink the cancer tumor to make it easier to remove. The treatment usually lasts for about three months. Then the cancer tumor is removed. Most children then receive additional cytostatic treatments, usually for another three to four months.
Sometimes the child can also receive radiation treatment to make the cancer completely gone. For other soft tissue sarcomas, the treatment can sometimes be merely an operation, but often a combination of surgery and cytostatic treatment.
Treatment for skeletal cancer
Children with skeletal cancer are almost always first treated with cytostatic drugs for the cancer tumor to shrink before it is operated. Sometimes the operation means that part of the skeleton must be removed. It can usually be replaced with other parts of the skeleton or with a metal prosthesis. It is uncommon for a body part to be removed completely due to skeletal cancer. It is only done when it is the only chance to remove the disease or to avoid another type of surgery that would cause the child to have a major disability.
After the operation, the child usually receives more treatments, either radiation therapy, cytostatics or a combination of both.
Post-checks for a long time
All children may go on post-check-ups quite often for several years, partly to find out if the disease is coming back, and partly to see how the child develops and the body functions after treatment.
Children who have received radiotherapy and certain types of cytostatic drugs need to go on controls even in adulthood, as complications can sometimes come a long way after treatment.