Sarcoma Specialist

Joshua Ellenhorn, M.D., FACS

Board Certified General Surgeon & Surgical Oncologist located in CEDARS SINAI MEDICAL TOWERS, LOS ANGELES, CA

Sarcoma is a type of cancer that affects your soft tissues and bones, and it comes in many different forms. If you have any worrying lumps under your skin or other distressing symptoms, Joshua Ellenhorn, MD, practicing in Beverly Grove near Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, can help. Dr. Ellenhorn is a leading surgical oncologist who has expert skills in treating all forms of sarcoma. Call today to find out more or book an appointment using the online form.

Sarcoma Q & A

What is sarcoma?

Sarcoma is an umbrella term for a group of cancers that arise in your bones and soft tissues. These tissues include:

  • Muscle
  • Fat
  • Blood vessels
  • Nerves
  • Tendons
  • Joint linings

There are over 70 different types of sarcoma. Examples include:

  • Angiosarcoma
  • Chondrosarcoma
  • Epithelioid sarcoma
  • Ewing sarcoma
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST)
  • Kaposi's sarcoma
  • Leiomyosarcoma
  • Liposarcoma
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Synovial sarcoma

Symptoms of sarcoma could include bone pain and weight loss, and you might be able to feel a lump under your skin. When you have sarcoma, bones can break after a minor injury, or even for no apparent reason at all.

Where are sarcomas located?

Sarcomas can be located anywhere in the body but most commonly occur in the limbs and abdomen. Sarcomas in the abdomen often begin in the back of the abdomen otherwise known as the retroperitoneum.

What causes sarcoma?

Cancers happen when the DNA in your cells mutates. These mutations prevent cells from dying at the end of their lifecycle as they normally would, and make cells divide and multiply uncontrollably. These abnormal cells then form the tumors familiar in most forms of cancer.

The precise causes of most sarcomas are unclear, but there are known risk factors that increase the chances of you developing sarcoma.

Inherited syndromes like neurofibromatosis type 1 and familial retinoblastoma can increase the risk of sarcoma, as can lymphedema. Lymphedema is swelling in the tissues due to an excess of lymph fluid. If you have lymphedema, it increases the risk of you getting a form of sarcoma called angiosarcoma.

Exposure to human herpesvirus 8 can increase the chance of getting Kaposi's sarcoma, which can affect your skin and multiple organs. Exposure to certain chemicals like herbicides can increase your risk of hepatic Kaposi's sarcoma, which affects the liver.

Receiving radiation therapy for cancer also increases your risk of developing sarcoma later.

How is sarcoma treated?

Treatment for sarcoma often involves surgery. Dr. Ellenhorn aims to remove all of the cancer. It is often necessary to carefully remove sarcoma from around nerves and blood vessels to achieve tumor removal with preservation of normal function. Even very large retroperitoneal sarcomas filling up most of the abdomen can be removed with complete recovery.

Where possible, Dr. Ellenhorn performs sarcoma surgery using minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques or robot-assisted surgery using the da Vinci® robotic system.

Radiation therapy uses X-rays and protons to kill cancer cells. You might have a course of radiation therapy after surgery, or it might form part of your surgery (intraoperative radiation). Radiation can also go inside your body (brachytherapy).

What drug treatments are effective for sarcoma?

Some types of sarcoma respond well to chemotherapy, which uses powerful chemicals to destroy growing cells. Other types of sarcoma don’t improve with chemotherapy. Dr. Ellenhorn might also recommend targeted therapy, which uses medications that attack areas of weakness in the cancer cells.

Immunotherapy is another kind of drug treatment. It boosts your immune system so you can fight the cancer more effectively. For some forms of sarcoma, ablation therapy might be an option. Ablation therapy destroys cancer cells by heating them or freezing them using technologies like high-frequency ultrasound or special chemicals.

If you’re concerned about any symptoms of sarcoma, call Joshua Ellenhorn, MD, today or book an appointment online.