Sarcoma is a relatively rare but troublesome cancer that affects soft tissue throughout the body. As a former Provision patient who was treated for the cancer put it: “There’s isn’t a ‘buddy check’ for sarcoma.”
About 12,390 new soft tissue sarcoma, as it is officially known, cases will be diagnosed this year with just under 5,000 men, women and children dying of the disease. It’s certainly a tough customer.
A cancer of the body’s connective tissue, the most common types of sarcoma in adults have a lot of letters and syllables to contend with: undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma (previously called malignant fibrous histiocytoma), liposarcoma and leiomyosarcoma. Each type tends to be found in different areas of the body, with leiomyosarcomas more common in the abdomen, while liposarcomas and undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma tend to show up in the legs. There are also a number of sarcomas whose type is uncertain.
Approximately 15 percent of the cancers found in children are sarcoma.
Proton therapy and sarcoma
Proton therapy is a good treatment option for sarcoma, as for many cancers, because it allows for targeted radiation of the cancer site without peripheral damage to surrounding tissues. This can spare the sensitive areas often located near sarcoma tumors such as the central nervous system, digestive organs and other sites where important bodily functions occur.
Provision has treated both adult and pediatric sarcoma, helping stave off the cancer’s advance and improve quality of life for patients who seek proton therapy. Unlike conventional radiation, protons can be strategically deposited at a tumor site without irradiating the tissue beyond it and leaving a less-damaging path of exposure in their wake.
One patient, diagnosed with an unusual form of sarcoma in his bone, continued to stay active during his treatment—caring for his invalid wife, driving himself to treatments and keeping up the house and yard.
Culture of care
A Provision pediatric patient not only found quality care at Provision Center for Proton Therapy, his family felt supported by staff at Provision in a variety of ways as they grappled with their son’s rare diagnosis.
“For me, it’s been amazing,” said the patient’s mother. “Provision informs us about everything. It’s more like a hotel or spa. It’s not like coming to a doctor’s office.”
A radiation therapist sewed together two small pediatric gowns to make one large enough for modesty. Therapists made sure to play classic rock during the patient’s treatment sessions. Another therapist brought a box of blueberry donut holes, his favorite, as his first treatment came to a close.
“It’s so much more than just providing medical treatment,” said his father. “We feel love and concern for our child.”