One of the nation’s top comprehensive cancer centers, M. D. Anderson is devoted to patient care, research, education and prevention. Located in Houston’s Texas Medical Center, M. D. Anderson is a place of energy and purpose, where more than 17,000 employees and volunteers work together toward their mission of eliminating cancer. More than 75,000 patients come to M. D. Anderson each year from all over the world for the latest therapies.
One of M.D. Anderson’s multidisciplinary centers, the Sarcoma Center is located on the 9th floor of the Main Building. One of the top centers of its kind in the nation, this outpatient center is open for appointments Monday through Friday. The adjacent Alkek Hospital is an inpatient treatment facility where sarcoma patients are hospitalized, if called for in their treatment plan. Sarcoma is a rare form of cancer which arises in the hard connective tissues such as bone or cartilage or in the soft connective tissues like fat, blood vessels, nerves and muscles. Since connective tissue is present throughout the body, sarcoma can occur any place.
These tumors make up less than 2% of all adult cancers.
Sarcoma is a very rare disease. And it’s complicated, because it’s not just a rare tumor. It is a very heterogeneous tumor. What that translates in English is that it’s a very complex disease.
There are from 50 to 100 different types of sarcomas which can arise in the soft tissues and over 20 types which can appear in the bone and skeletal system. The American Cancer Society estimates approximately 13,000 sarcoma cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. At any one time, some 50,000 people are struggling with sarcoma. But while the disease is rare among adults, sarcoma is one of the top five most commonly diagnosed cancers in children.
Dr. Benjamin (entering exam room):
Hi Erica. How are you?
Each patient at the Sarcoma Center is treated by one of several multidisciplinary teams. The team consists of a primary physician, an advanced practice nurse or a physician’s assistant and a clinic nurse, each of whom specializes in sarcoma. Dr. Robert Benjamin is Chairman of Sarcoma Medical Oncology at M. D. Anderson.
The single most important thing that people need to know about sarcomas is that they are so rare that most doctors do not know how to treat them, and so even though they’re being treated by very good doctors, those doctors don’t have the experience that’s really needed. And they don’t have the team that’s really needed to adequately manage them.
People need to understand that, when they have rare diseases, that they’re doing themselves a significant disservice to allow treatment in their local community… just because it’s convenient. I’m not for a minute suggesting that every patient with a sarcoma should come to M. D. Anderson. But I do think that every patient with a sarcoma should have management coordinated by a Sarcoma Center. And there are relatively few of them, but they are spread across the country.
The major centers are M. D. Anderson, Memorial Sloan Kettering; University of Michigan; Dana Farber Cancer Center; UCLA. There are a number of other centers which have good programs on a smaller scale.
M. D. Anderson’s Sarcoma Center treats some 900 patients a month. Experience gained from treating large numbers of sarcoma patients translates into better outcomes
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