Not only are sarcomas rare, they are also highly diverse. About 25 major categories of sarcomas exist. In addition, there are more than 60 different sub-types of cancerous tissue. Since one sarcoma can behave differently from another, each requires a distinct approach to treatment. Caring for hundreds of patients every year, the Sarcoma Program has the experience and resources to deliver individualized treatments. The interdisciplinary team understands the intricacies of these diseases, and is skilled in the most advanced therapies.
Because these cancer types are very complex, it may be easiest to think of them in terms of bone or soft tissue sarcomas.
For both categories of sarcoma, image-guided therapies, plastic surgery and rehabilitation are critical considerations within each patient’s treatment plan. In addition combination treatments are important considerations for cancers that have metastasized (spread).
Plastic SurgeryAfter a patient has had surgery to remove a sarcoma, plastic surgeons use specialized surgical techniques to replace tissue and close the surgical wound.
The goal of plastic surgery is to restore the most natural appearance and functioning of soft tissues (skin, fat, blood vessels and nerves). The plastic surgeon may use tissue from other areas of the body to provide natural coverage of exposed artificial joints, bones, blood vessels and nerves. The donor tissue may come from the abdomen, thigh or back. When possible, surgery to remove the cancer and reconstructive surgery are performed in a single operation.
Read more about plastic surgery’s important role in treating sarcomas.
Image-Guided Therapies (Vascular and Interventional Radiology)Vascular and interventional radiology offers several cutting edge, image-guided therapies to improve outcomes and quality of life for sarcoma patients. These treatments, all of which are usually performed in an outpatient setting, can be used to reduce symptoms of pain and swelling associated with tumors that cannot be removed.
- Sarcomas require a significant amount of blood flow to survive. Embolization is a minimally invasive treatment that stops blood flow to the tumor. It can be performed immediately before surgery, allowing faster, safer removal of the tumor with less blood loss – and an easier recovery.
- Ablation therapy, such as radiofrequency ablation and cryoablation, uses extreme heat or cold energy to destroy tumor tissue, control symptoms and shrink a tumor.
- When bones are weakened by a sarcoma, they can be reinforced through traditional surgical methods or a less invasive method that uses acrylic bone cement.
Combination TreatmentsFor many patients, the most effective treatment plan includes some combination of surgical, medical, interventional and radiation therapies. The physicians in our program are completely up to date on the most effective combination therapies for different types of sarcoma and the best ways to coordinate these treatments.
Tumors of the Spinal ColumnMany treatment options are available for patients with spinal tumors. At Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin, a multidisciplinary group of musculoskeletal tumor specialists meets weekly to discuss patients and ensure that an individualized plan for each patient is determined to optimize outcome.
Rehabilitation After Cancer TreatmentRehabilitation is an important part of the comprehensive care provided for patients being treated for musculoskeletal malignancies. The Rehabilitation Program focuses on improving quality of life and functional independence in mobility, safety and activities of daily living after cancer treatment. The rehabilitation team is led by physicians with specialized training in physical medicine and rehabilitation, as well as by experienced physical and occupational therapists. Rehabilitation includes inpatient and outpatient, depending on the functional needs of the individual.
Some patients who are not physically ready to return home after initial treatment undergo comprehensive, intensive inpatient rehabilitation led physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians, while continuing to be followed by surgeons and oncologists for wound care, further cancer treatment planning and for various medical conditions.
The functional recovery process continues in an outpatient setting in the Froedtert & The Medical College Clinical Cancer Center. Outpatient rehabilitation includes treatment for general fatigue related to radiation and chemotherapy, musculoskeletal pain, soft tissue fibrosis and associated decreased range of motion in the joints, as well as lymphedema (swelling of tissue due to impaired lymphatic flow) and other conditions impacting everyday function. Physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians, along with physical and occupational therapists, create individualized rehabilitation plans that address specific patient needs. Outpatient rehabilitation treatment incorporates medications, physical modalities, orthotics, prosthetics (as needed), education on skin care and a home exercise program.
Author: Bob Schultz
Last Review Date: June 12, 2013
Online Editor(s): Shannon Krause