Sarcomas

Sarcoma is a rare cancer that develops in the cells of the tissues surrounding the body organs. This tissue is known as the connective tissue. They can arise in any part of the body and there are many different types. It is useful to divide them into bone sarcomas and soft tissue sarcoma which includes fat, muscles, blood vessels, deep skin tissues, nerves, tendons, ligaments and the tissues around the joints.

Please note that this section details services provided to adult patients. Please follow the link for information on Children’s Cancers.


  • Referral

    If a patient is suspected of having a sarcoma, they will be referred to a hospital by their GP. The hospital the patient is referred to will depend on what and where the suspected problem is. All bone sarcoma patients are managed through Musgrave Park Hosptial.

    Arm and leg soft tissue sarcoma patients will be referred to Musgrave Park or the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald. Other patients may be referred to specialists in Belfast City Hospital, Musgrave Park Hospital, the Royal Victoria Hospital or the Mater Hospital Belfast.

  • A patient may have a number of tests performed to determine whether they have a sarcoma cancer or not.

    These tests include:

  • Sarcoma Clinical Meeting

    In order for all patients to be provided with the best treatment possible, a group of clinicians known as the Local Sarcoma Cancer Committee will discuss your diagnosis and treatment. The committee meets monthly in Musgrave Park and the Ulster Hospital. It is a well established group of experts with a specialist interest in diagnosing and treating patients with sarcoma.

    Detailed discussions between all the relevant specialists takes place, looking at all the available investigations and test results to ensure that the best treatment plan is agreed.

    A record of this discussion will be sent to the patient’s GP.

  • Types

    There are over 10 types of soft tissue Sarcoma that a patient could be diagnosed with. These include:

    • Gastro-Intestinal Stomal Tumours (GISTS): Most GISTs begin in the stomach or small bowel, but they can occur anywhere along the length of the digestive tract.
    • Leiomyosarcoma: Develops in the smooth muscle cells including the womb, stomach, intestine and blood vessels. These are muscles which we do not have control over.
    • Fibrosarcomas: Develop in the cells of the fibrous tissue which is commonly found in the arms and legs but can grow in any part of the body.
    • Liposarcomas: Develop in the fatty tissue and can grow anywhere in the body. This type of soft tissue sarcoma often appears as soft lumps.
    • Angiosarcomas: Develop in the cells that make up the wall of blood or lymphatic vessels of the body. Sarcomas in the lymphatic vessels are called lymphangiosarcomas.
    • Synovial Sarcomas: Develop in the joints and tendons around the knee. They often appear as hard lumps.
    • Rhabdomyosarcoma: Develops from the skeletal muscle cells that you do have control of including the arms and the legs.
    • Maliganant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumours: Develops in the cells of the nerves of the body.
    • Kaposis Sarcomas: Develop in cells of the skin but are also commonly found in internal organs, in the mouth, lymph nodes, lung, liver and spleen.
      Ewings Sarcomas: Develops in the bones of the body.

    More information on the various types of sarcoma

  • Treatment

    There are a range of treatments used to treat soft tissue sarcomas. The type of treatment a patient receives will be discussed at length with their doctor and will be specific to their circumstances.

    For general information on the various types of treatments of sarcoma, please follow one of these links:

    • Surgery
    • Chemotherapy
    • Radiotherapy
    • Specialist Palliative Care

    Before a patient undergoes any treatment, it is a legal requirement that they consent to the treatment being given. This is an important process to ensure that the patient fully understands the nature of their treatment.

  • Follow up

    Following cancer treatment, the patient will be asked to return to the hospital to see one of our specialists within the either the Orthopaedics Team, Oncology Team or Plastics Team. The frequency of these review appointments will differ for each patient. The review appointments allow the team to assess your progress following treatment. The check-ups are also a good opportunity for the patient to discuss with their doctor any problems or worries they may have.

    The location where the patient has their follow up appointments will depend upon where they have their cancer treatment. If they have radiotherapy then they may have their follow up in the Cancer Centre. If they have surgery, they may have their follow up appointments in the Royal Victoria Hospital or Musgrave Park Hospital by an orthopaedic surgeon or plastic surgeon.

    If a patient notices any new symptoms, or has any worries, they should contact their consultant, surgeon or oncologist or their local GP to discuss the symptoms as they may need additional treatment or rehabilitation services such as a dietician or physiotherapy services.

  • Useful links

    For more information on sarcoma and charities providing support for people with cancer, please follow one of the links below: