Anyone with the signs and symptoms of sarcoma needs to be seen as early as possible and referred to services that can quickly and accurately confirm the diagnosis. Doing this can save lives.
Why is this important?
- Sarcoma is an uncommon cancer that has vague symptoms, often a growing, possibly painful lump, or bone pain. As these symptoms can be attributed to other things, such as sporting injuries or growing pains, the patient may not think about visiting their doctor.
- Even if they spot something of concern, GPs may not associate the symptoms with sarcoma; most GPs will only see one case of sarcoma in their career.
- The later a sarcoma is diagnosed, the worse the outcome for the patient. Despite time being of the essence, on average sarcomas are diagnosed when they are about the same size as a can of beans.
- Despite early diagnosis being key, we do not currently have accurate staging data. The NHS Long Term Plan aims that by 2028, the proportion of cancer patients diagnosed at stages 1 and 2 should rise from around half currently to three-quarters. However, since it is estimated that only around a quarter of sarcoma patients are given a stage (compared to over 90% in breast and lung cancers), there is not an accurate picture of the stage at which sarcomas are diagnosed.
- Being left in limbo, not knowing if they have cancer, or what type of sarcoma they have, has a significant emotional toll. The longer it took for people to receive an accurate diagnosis, and the more times they saw a healthcare professional before being diagnosed, the more likely they are to experience anxiety.