Surgery is commonly used to treat sarcoma — a cancer that affects connective tissues such as bones, tendons, muscles, cartilage and blood vessels. The ultimate goal of surgical treatment is to remove all traces of cancer from a patient’s body. For small sarcomas, surgery may be the only treatment necessary. For larger sarcomas, surgery may be accompanied by chemotherapy, radiation therapy or drug therapies to help destroy any cancer cells that remain following surgery.
Types of sarcoma surgeries
There are several types of surgeries that may be appropriate for patients with sarcoma. A person’s ideal course of treatment will depend on several factors, such as his or her age, overall health and care preferences as well as the specific location, type and stage of the cancer. Based on these factors and other clinical considerations, a surgeon may recommend one or more of the following procedures:
Wide local incision
Wide local incision surgery can be used to remove the entire tumor along with a small margin of surrounding tissue, although minimal healthy tissue removal is the goal for sarcomas in the head, neck and trunk. This procedure is commonly used to excise soft tissue sarcomas and may be the only treatment necessary for early-stage cancers.
Limb-sparing surgery refers to a procedure that removes a sarcoma in the arm or leg without removing the entire limb. Although most surgeries do not involve the removal of a patient’s limb, an amputation may be necessary for an extensive, late-stage tumor.
A hemipelvectomy may be performed to address sarcomas that originate in or spread to the pelvis and do not respond to nonsurgical therapies. This is a relatively uncommon procedure that involves removing a portion of or the entire pelvis.
Lymphadenectomy surgery is used to remove lymph nodes near a tumor if an oncologist believes the cancer may be spreading to the lymphatic system. The majority of sarcomas don’t travel to lymph nodes, although this procedure may be appropriate for patients with certain subtypes of sarcoma.
Laparoscopy is a surgical technique that utilizes a laparoscope—a long, thin instrument with a tiny camera on the end that can be inserted into the abdominal area through a small incision. A laparoscopic approach may be appropriate for patients with certain soft tissue sarcomas in the abdominal region, such as gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs).
Reconstructive or plastic surgery
Reconstructive or plastic surgery is used to restore a patient’s cosmetic appearance or improve physical ability following cancer treatment. (In some cases, cancer treatment and reconstructive techniques are performed during a single procedure.) In patients with sarcoma, reconstructive or plastic surgery may involve:
- Replacing skin
- Replacing bones
- Rebuilding muscle volume
- Reconnecting blood vessels and nerves
Impending pathological fracture procedure
The ultimate goal of an impending pathological fracture procedure is to maximize skeletal function and integrity. During this surgery, certain bones are reinforced before cancer treatment is performed. A physician may suggest this approach if a patient’s bones are likely to fracture due to metastasis or other factors. A tumor-bearing bone that breaks will rarely heal on its own, which is why an impending pathological fracture procedure is necessary to help prevent injury.
Moffitt Cancer Center’s approach to sarcoma surgery
Moffitt Cancer Center’s applauded Sarcoma Program features a multispecialty team of oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, surgeons and supportive care specialists who collaborate to tailor each patient’s treatment plan to his or her unique needs. Because Moffitt is among the highest-volume cancer centers in the country, our team has unparalleled experience performing many types of complex sarcoma surgeries, several of which are facilitated using minimally invasive robotic techniques to minimize scarring and recovery times.
Furthermore, Moffitt is recognized as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. This distinction speaks directly to our commitment to providing patients with fast access to progressive treatments such as immunotherapy and trailblazing clinical trials. Our specialists are positioned firmly at the forefront of sarcoma research and remain committed to better understanding this disease and treating it more effectively.
To consult with a Moffitt oncologist regarding sarcoma surgery or other treatment options for this cancer, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. We’re changing the model by providing rapid access to advanced cancer care - you’ll be connected with an expert specializing in your type of cancer within 24 hours of contacting our team.