In general, treatment for sarcomas depends on the stage of the cancer. The stage of the sarcoma is based on the size and grade of the tumor, and whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body (metastasized). Treatment options for sarcomas include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Surgery is the most common treatment for sarcomas. If possible, the doctor may remove the cancer and a safe margin of the healthy tissue around it. Depending on the size and location of the sarcoma, it may occasionally be necessary to remove all or part of an arm or leg (amputation). However, the need for amputation rarely arises; no more than 10 percent to 15 percent of individuals with sarcoma undergo amputation. In most cases, limb-sparing surgery is an option to avoid amputating the arm or leg. In limb-sparing surgery, as much of the tumor is removed as possible, and radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy are given either before the surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to kill the remaining cancer cells.
Radiation therapy (treatment with high-dose x-rays) may be used either before surgery to shrink tumors or after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may have been left behind.
Chemotherapy (treatment with anticancer drugs) may be used with radiation therapy either before or after surgery to try to shrink the tumor or kill any remaining cancer cells. If the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, chemotherapy may be used to shrink tumors and reduce the pain and discomfort they cause, but is unlikely to eradicate the disease. The use of chemotherapy to prevent the spread of sarcomas has not been proven to be effective. Patients with sarcomas usually receive chemotherapy intravenously (injected into a blood vessel).
Doctors are conducting clinical trials in the hope of finding new, more effective treatments for sarcomas, and better ways to use current treatments.