Pediatric Sarcomas | Miami Cancer Institute | Baptist Health South Florida
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 Pediatric Sarcomas

Sarcomas are cancers that occur in the bones, muscles or soft tissues.

They can develop anywhere in the body and among children and adults of all ages.

There are numerous types of sarcomas. Among the most common are:

  • Ewing sarcoma – the long bones, such as the femur or tibia in the leg, the humerus in the arm, the hip bones or the ribs are the most common sites. It can also involve the muscle and soft tissue around the tumor site.
  • Osteosarcoma – arises in the bone and most commonly develops near the knee and near growth plates.
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma – a tumor that occurs in the muscle or tendons anywhere in the body.
  • Desmoplastic small round cell tumor – a tumor that occurs in the abdomen or pelvis of an adolescent or young adult. Usually aggressive, but rare.
  • Other, rarer sarcomas– fibrohystioctic tumors, liposarcoma, gastrointestinal stromal tumors, malignant schwannomas and more.

What causes sarcomas?

The cause of many sarcomas is not understood. In some case, researchers have discovered the genetic changes that lead to the development of the cancer cells. These discoveries have improved the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

What are the symptoms of sarcomas?

Children may experience symptoms differently, and the type of sarcoma will also affect the symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of sarcomas:

  • Swelling, redness or pain around the site of the tumor
  • Weight loss, decreased appetite
  • Lethargy, fatigue
  • If the tumor is in the spinal region, paralysis and/or incontinence may occur
  • Numbness, tingling or paralysis related to nerve compression from the tumor

There’s a wide range of treatment options for children with sarcomas, and the tests involved in diagnosing the disease help doctors better analyze your child’s condition ― and help determine the best treatment. Your child’s doctor will complete a thorough medical history and order a number of tests. Because there is no single way to treat cancer, your child’s testing and care plan may be very different from another child’s, even if they have the same type of cancer.

The most common tests for sarcomas are:

  • X-rays, bone scans, MRI, CT and PET scans
  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy of the tumor – tests may include cytogenesis analysis and immunohistochemistry
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
  • Genetic and DNA testing

The diagnosis of sarcoma for some subtypes also involves staging and classifying the disease. This helps determine treatment options and prognosis. Sarcomas can metastasize, or widely spread, to soft tissues throughout the body. There are various methods of staging, and you should ask your child’s doctor for more information.

At Miami Cancer Institute, the comprehensive treatment of your child involves numerous specialists. You may see several pediatric physicians, oncologists, surgeons and radiation experts, as well as nurses, dietitians, therapists and social workers. We understand that this can be a confusing and stressful time for every family member, and we are here to help.

One of the most exciting advances in the fight against sarcomas is proton therapy. When the Proton Therapy Center opens at Miami Cancer Institute soon, it will be the only center of its kind in the region and one of only 14 in the United States. An advanced form of radiation treatment, proton therapy spares healthy tissue and eliminates many of the side effects of conventional radiation treatment (also known as photon or external beam radiation). While traditional X-rays pass through healthy tissue and organs on their way in and out of the body, protons travel through the body and release most of their energy inside a tumor. Using proton therapy reduces the risk of damage to bones and soft tissues, reduces side effects and decreases the odds of other tumors later in life, which makes it particularly good for treating childhood sarcomas.

Other treatments may include (alone or in combination):

  • Removal of the tumor
  • Chemotherapy​ and radiation therapy
  • IMRT – intensity-modulated radiotherapy, another targeted form of radiation therapy
  • Limb salvage procedure of the affected arm or leg, with prosthesis fitting and training
  • Resections for metastases
  • Antibiotics
  • Rehabilitation, including physical and occupational therapy and psychosocial adaptation

Every patient and every cancer is different, so prognosis and long-term survival can vary greatly from child to child. Long-term follow-up care is important, and rehabilitation may be required. The healthcare team at Miami Cancer Institute will work closely with you and your family to develop the best treatment plan for your child.