Soft tissue sarcomas usually are treated with a combination of therapies that may include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. If you are diagnosed with sarcoma, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it. This depends on several factors, including:
- The location and type of sarcoma
- If the cancer has spread
- Possible impact on your body
- Your general health
Your treatment for sarcoma will be customized to your particular needs and may include one or more of the treatment types listed below.
Like all surgeries, sarcoma surgery is most successful when performed by a specialist with a great deal of experience in the particular procedure. MD Anderson surgeons are among the most skilled and recognized in the world. They among the few surgeons in the world who specialize in sarcoma treatment, and they use the least-invasive and most-advanced techniques.
Surgery is the main treatment for soft-tissue sarcomas. The surgeon removes the tumor, as well as a margin of healthy tissue around it to take out as many cancer cells as possible. You may receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy before or after the surgery.
Because of a special type of surgery called limb-sparing surgery, which often is followed with radiation therapy, most patients do not have to have arms or legs removed to treat sarcoma.
MD Anderson offers the most up-to-date and advanced chemotherapy options. Chemotherapy may be used as the main treatment for sarcoma or with surgery or radiation. A combination of two or more chemotherapy drugs may be used. Sometimes limb profusion, a special way to give a more focused dose of chemotherapy may be used.
New radiation therapy techniques and remarkable skill allow MD Anderson doctors to target tumors more precisely, delivering the maximum amount of radiation with the least damage to healthy cells.
Radiation therapy usually is not used as the main treatment for sarcoma, but it may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to destroy remaining cancer cells. If you cannot have surgery, you may receive radiation therapy to help with pain and other symptoms.
MD Anderson provides the most advanced radiation treatments, including:
- Brachytherapy: Tiny radioactive seeds are placed in the body close to the tumor
- 3D-conformal radiation therapy: Several radiation beams are given in the exact shape of the tumor
- Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT): Treatment is tailored to the specific shape of the tumor
The Proton Therapy Center at MD Anderson is one of the largest and most advanced centers in the world. It’s the only proton therapy facility in the country located within a comprehensive cancer center. This means that this cutting-edge therapy is backed by all the expertise and compassionate care for which MD Anderson is famous.
Proton therapy delivers high radiation doses directly to the tumor site, sparing nearby healthy tissue and vital organs. For some patients, this therapy results in better cancer control with less impact on the body.
Targeted Therapy (Precision Medicine)
While many treatments directly kill cancer cells, targeted therapy works by stopping or slowing the growth or spread of cancer.
This happens on a cellular level. Cancer cells need specific molecules (often in the form of proteins) to survive, multiply and spread. These molecules are usually made by the genes that cause cancer, as well as the cells themselves. Targeted therapies are designed to interfere with, or target, these molecules or the cancer-causing genes that create them.
Your doctor might request specific genomic or molecular profiling to help find therapies to fight the disease.
Our Treatment Approach
MD Anderson is committed to providing you with the most advanced treatments for sarcoma with the least impact on your body. Your sarcoma treatment is customized specifically for you by one of the world's foremost teams of experts.
Because sarcoma is rare, most oncologists treat few if any patients in their careers. Statistics show that sarcoma patients have better outcomes when they are treated at large comprehensive cancer centers where specialized oncologists have more experience with the disease. MD Anderson treats more sarcoma patients than any other cancer center, which translates to a remarkable level of experience and expertise.
Our surgeons are among the most skilled in the world in surgery for sarcoma. They use the latest techniques, including limb-sparing surgeries, which we helped pioneer. Usually patients are able to avoid the loss of an arm or leg.
We're making great strides in treating sarcomas. For instance, we were instrumental in the pivotal clinical trial for Gleevec® (imatinib) for GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumors), and we helped discover the activity of Gemzar® (gemcitabine) in soft-tissue sarcomas. We helped developed concurrent chemo and radiation regimens to improve chance of successful treatment in certain types of sarcoma.
MD Anderson patients have access to clinical trials offering promising new treatments that cannot be found anywhere else.
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