Treatment for your sarcoma depends on your overall health, the extent of the disease (localized or metastasized) and your tolerance for various therapies. Depending on the size and location of the tumor and the stage of the sarcoma, you may need a single treatment or a combination of therapies, including:
- Surgery: Surgery is the usual treatment for soft tissue sarcomas. The surgeon will remove the whole tumor or as much of it as possible while preserving as much of the affected body part as possible to maintain normal function. The size of the tumor generally determines whether surgery alone will be used for treatment. Tumors larger than a certain size will most likely also be treated with radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy, either before or after surgery.
- Radiation therapy: Also called radiotherapy, this treatment seeks to kill cancer cells using powerful energy from radiation beams or other sources. This treatment may be used to shrink a tumor before surgery or to kill cancer cells that may remain after surgery.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy medications can be used to shrink and destroy sarcoma cells. Your medical oncologist may choose to inject the medication into a vein to carry the drugs throughout the body or inject the medication right into the blood vessels around the tumor. Chemotherapy may be given before or after surgery or, if the cancer has spread into other parts of the body, chemotherapy alone may be used for treatment.
- Biological therapy: Biological treatments, such as immunotherapy that stimulate the body’s immune system to fight cancer, or molecules that target certain genes expressed by the cancer cells, are being used routinely for some sarcomas and in clinical trials for many other types of sarcoma.
- Supportive treatments: Supportive treatments protect patients from infection, prevent discomfort and bring the body’s blood counts to a healthy range. During treatment, a variety of medications may be prescribed, including antibiotics to prevent and fight infection, anti-nausea and other medications. You may receive a blood transfusion to restore the blood cells destroyed by treatment.
- Long-term care: You may need physical therapy to get your body functioning normally after treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation may cause some problems, such as damage to certain organs, so your health will need to be monitored for life. Follow-up care may include clinic visits, blood tests, imaging of the heart and other imaging tests.
Researchers are actively working on discovering new ways to treat soft tissue sarcoma through clinical trials. Before beginning treatment, ask your physician whether you are eligible for clinical trials.