Sarcoma Awareness Month

Sarcoma Awareness Month

July 2021 is Sarcoma Awareness Month.

During this month Sarcoma UK, the bone & soft tissue cancer charity, will launch a series of initiatives to help raise the awareness of sarcoma and the issues affecting sarcoma patients, and what can be done to improve their lives.

Sarcomas are relatively uncommon cancers that can affect any part of the body including blood vessels, bone, fatty tissues, muscles or tendons. Every day in the UK around 15 people are diagnosed with sarcoma, amounting to around 5,300 people every year. This represents around 1.4% of all cancer diagnoses in the UK.

Sarcomas typically affect the arms, legs and trunk, but can also appear in the stomach, intestines and behind the abdomen, as well as in the female reproductive system. Around 1 in 9 sarcoma diagnoses are bone sarcomas the most common type of sarcoma is soft tissue sarcomas, which represent around 88% of all sarcomas. Soft tissue sarcomas include:

  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST) which develop in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Gynaecological sarcomas which arise in the female reproductive system.
  • Retroperitoneal sarcomas which arise in the area behind the peritoneum, deep in the abdomen and pelvis.

Despite the number of people that are diagnosed annually with a sarcoma, more research is required to fully understand how these cancers arise and spread, and what is the best way to diagnose and treat them. Early diagnosis is essential to ensure survival, before the sarcoma spreads to other parts of the body. Whilst conducting research for this article, I was surprised to learn that for the majority of sarcoma patients, their sarcoma is already the size of a large can of baked beans at the time of diagnosis!

Personally, I find it alarming how low the awareness of sarcoma is in the UK. A YouGov poll conducted in April 2020 identified that around 75% of people in the UK are not sure or do not know what sarcoma is, and less than a third did not even know that sarcoma is a form of cancer. Even for those who were familiar with sarcoma, nearly a third did not know what the symptoms were, and less than half could identify the key symptoms of bone pain and a painful lump growing in size. Clearly, it is important that this awareness is improved to ensure diagnosis is made as soon as possible to ensure early treatment and survival.

In order to improve the awareness of sarcoma, Sarcoma UK is launching a series of online talks with sarcoma experts, and handing over their social channels to patients, clinicians and researchers to help provide a first-hand insight into what life is like working and living with sarcoma. They will also urge those affected by sarcoma to write to their MPs, inviting them to meet virtually, together with Sarcoma UK to help them understand more about sarcoma, and what can be done to improve the lives of sarcoma patients.

I hope that together through our positive actions awareness of sarcoma can be improved, resulting in earlier diagnosis and treatment, greater survival, and improved lives for those affected by this devastating disease.

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