When a person develops a malignant (cancerous) tumor or tumors in the connective tissues of the body, the condition is called sarcoma.

The types of connective tissues where a sarcoma can develop fall into two categories: sarcoma of the soft tissues and bone sarcoma. Sarcoma of the soft tissues includes anything that is not bone tissue, such as blood vessels, muscles, nerves, tendons, and soft tissues that surround the joints. Bone sarcoma is a type of bone cancer that, in contrast to soft-tissue sarcoma, impacts three types of bone tissue:

  1. Cancellous tissue: The inner portion of the bone, which is spongy and contains bone marrow
  2. Cartilage: A rubbery tissue that helps cushion the joints
  3. Compact tissue: The hard, outer part of a bone

Doctors who treat patients with cancer, whether they have bone tumors or other types of tumors, are called oncologists. Because treating cancer, including sarcoma, can sometimes be complex, a variety of treatments are often used to help a patient. For example, chemotherapy and radiation may be used. Depending on the type of tumor and how advanced it is, these treatments alone might destroy the tumor. However, sometimes a patient needs another or additional type of care, like surgical treatment, to remove a tumor.

If a patient has sarcoma, whether it a bone tumor or soft-tissue sarcoma that needs to be removed, there are specialists who work within oncology who can help. Specifically, these doctors and surgeons work in a field called orthopaedic oncology, and they are called orthopaedic oncologists. "Oncology" is the term used to describe the study and treatment of cancer; orthopaedics is the study and treatment of bone-related conditions, which makes orthopaedic oncologists such as Dr. Anna Wallace uniquely qualified to expertly diagnose and treat sarcoma.

Build Your Knowledge of Sarcoma and Oncology

If you or someone you know has been recently diagnosed with cancer, such as soft-tissue sarcoma or bone sarcoma, it can be helpful to build your knowledge about sarcoma, the terminology that is used, and how it can be treated by an oncologist. Below are some definitions and sarcoma-related terms that can help you better understand what sarcoma is:

  • Benign tumor: A tumor without cancer. A benign bone tumor is a noncancerous bone tumor.
  • Chondroblastoma: A type of benign bone tumor. Develops first in the cartilage. In contrast, a chondrosarcoma is a tumor in the cartilage that is malignant (cancerous).
  • Enchondroma: A type of cartilage tumor that is benign.
  • Ewing's sarcoma: Can be either a soft-tissue sarcoma or a bone sarcoma. Children and young adults are at highest risk for this type of sarcoma.
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome: A rare, heredity condition that puts a person at greater risk for some cancers, including certain types of sarcoma, such as soft-tissue sarcoma and osteosarcoma.
  • Low-grade: When a person is diagnosed with sarcoma, like a soft-tissue tumor, the doctor will “grade” it. This helps determine the best treatment and helps the patient understand how aggressive the cancer is. A sarcoma that is low-grade means the tumor looks similar to normal tissue and the sarcoma will grow or spread more slowly than a high-grade sarcoma.
  • Malignant bone tumor: A cancerous tumor.
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST): This nerve sheath tumor affects the tissue surrounding the nerves.
  • Orthopaedic oncology: Orthopaedic oncology refers to the field of medicine focused on helping patients who have a soft-tissue sarcoma or another type of sarcoma.
  • Osteoblastoma: A noncancerous bone tumor that often develops in the spine.
  • Osteochondroma: This is a type of noncancerous tumor that often affects the long bones in the legs.
  • Osteosarcoma: The most common type of primary bone cancer. "Primary cancer" is a term used to describe the place where the cancer first developed. 
  • Sarcoma: An overall term used to describe a type of tissue tumor, specifically a tumor that’s developed in the soft, connective tissue of the body, like a blood vessel, nerve, muscle, or bone

The National Cancer Institute offers additional information on sarcomas, such as adult soft-tissue sarcoma. They also offer valuable resources that can help patients with sarcoma cope with cancer.

Exceptional Care at University Orthopaedic Surgeons

Our years of experience and advanced training devoted to the care of orthopaedic issues make us who we are, but our compassionate care of our patients is what makes us dedicated to you. Our orthopaedic oncologist and her team at University Orthopaedic Surgeons are here to improve the health and well-being of our community, treating patients dealing with the full range of bone diseases and conditions. They are also committed to staying up to date on new treatment advances so they can offer the very best to patients.

Dr. Anna Wallace and her orthopaedic oncology team are fully equipped to treat the complete range of sarcomas, as well as noncancerous soft-tissue tumors and bone tumors. They are supported by our entire team of highly experienced nurses and other clinical staff and backed by our state-of-the-art orthopaedic facility. 

Since we understand coping with sarcoma and navigating your appointments and care can be challenging, we remain committed to providing you with the orthopaedic oncology care you need to excel.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with our orthopaedic oncology specialist, call our UT Medical Center office at (865) 546-2663 or request an appointment online.