Sarcoma Awareness Month: What You Need to Know

Every year in the month of July, it is Sarcoma Awareness Month, a dedicated time to shine a light on a rare and often misunderstood group of cancers.

Sarcomas are rare malignant (cancerous) tumours which affect bone, cartilage or soft tissues (muscle, nerves and fat). About 270 people are diagnosed each year in Ireland with some type of sarcoma.

Understanding Sarcoma

Sarcoma is a type of cancer that originates in the body’s connective tissues, which include bones, muscles, fat, nerves, cartilage, and blood vessels. While it can occur at any age, sarcoma is most commonly diagnosed in children and young adults. There are over 100 sarcoma sub-types and you can develop a tumour anywhere on your body.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma:

Soft tissue sarcomas can affect any part of the body; they develop in supporting or connective tissue such as the muscles, nerves, fatty tissue, and blood vessels. About 175 people are diagnosed with soft tissue sarcomas each year in Ireland and there are a number of different types. The most common types of soft tissue sarcoma include:

  • Liposarcoma: Originates in fat cells and can occur in any part of the body.
  • Leiomyosarcoma: Develops from smooth muscle tissue, frequently found in the uterus, abdomen, or pelvis.
Bone Sarcoma:

Bone sarcoma affects around 30 people in Ireland each year, making it a very rare form of cancer. Not all bone cancers will be sarcomas. Some common bone sarcoma’s include:

  • Osteosarcoma: Typically affects the bones of the arms, legs, and pelvis, often diagnosed in teenagers and young adults.
  • Ewing Sarcoma: Another bone cancer, predominantly found in children and adolescents.


The causes of most sarcomas are unknown. Risk factors that can increase your chance of developing sarcoma include:

Inherited conditions: If you had retinoblastoma (an eye cancer) as a child or neurofibromatosis type 1 (a condition that causes the growth of benign and malignant tumours) you may have an increased risk of developing sarcoma.

Previous radiotherapy: If you have had previous radiotherapy, you might have a higher risk. Very rarely, a sarcoma might develop many years after treatment.

Signs and Symptoms to Watch For

Usually sarcomas do not cause any symptoms for a long time until they become larger and press on an organ, nerve or muscle. If you have any unusual lumps or recurring pain anywhere on your body, always get it checked by your GP.

Recognising the signs and symptoms of sarcoma can lead to earlier diagnosis and better treatment options. Key symptoms include:

Any lump that:

  • Is increasing in size
  • Is painful and tender
  • Is deep in your body, and not just under your skin
  • Has come back after being surgically removed
  • A lung sarcoma might cause a cough and breathlessness
  • A sarcoma in your tummy might cause abdominal pain, vomiting and constipation
  • A sarcoma affecting your womb might cause vaginal bleeding and pain in your lower abdomen

Sarcoma can affect almost any part of the body. If you notice any of the above symptoms, get them checked out by your doctor. People can survive sarcoma if their cancer is diagnosed early, when treatments can be more effective and before the sarcoma has spread to other parts of the body.

Early detection of sarcoma can significantly improve treatment outcomes. However, due to its rarity and the nonspecific nature of early symptoms, sarcoma can often be misdiagnosed or overlooked.

Sarcoma Awareness Month is a vital time to focus on this rare group of cancers.

If you notice any unusual change in how your body works, talk to your GP. Our pharmacists are also available to offer support and advice – don’t hesitate to call into your local Adrian Dunne Pharmacy. You can find your local Adrian Dunne Pharmacy here.

For further information about sarcomas and the support groups available, you can visit Sarcoma Cancer Ireland’s website at or the Irish Cancer Society’s website at