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July is Sarcoma Awareness Month. While research continues on what causes Sarcoma, your best defense is to catch it early by knowing what it is and what it looks like.

Sarcomas are malignant tumors of the connective tissues. That’s your fat, blood vessels, nerves, bones, muscles, deep skin tissues, and cartilage. In general, sarcomas are divided into two types: soft tissue sarcomas and bone sarcomas. Both are relatively rare: there are about 15,000 new cases of Sarcoma diagnosed each year in the United States.

In soft tissue sarcomas, the first sign is usually a painless lump. Sometimes, they will press on nerves or nearby organs. Bone sarcomas are most often signaled through pain, as well as swelling and tenderness around the joints. With both, the symptoms will vary depending on the location and size of the tumor. Bone sarcomas are more common with children.

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms, it’s important to get it checked out with a medical professional.

A soft tissue sarcoma may be diagnosed through a biopsy, which is a procedure which removes tissue to be looked at under a microscope. A bone sarcoma may be located through an X-ray or CT scan.

It may be treated through surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, although the treatment will vary depending on the case. Talk to your doctor about what’s best for you.

While sarcoma is relatively rare, it’s important to catch it early. Be vigilant about the signs and symptoms, and do your part to spread awareness.