Why Second Opinions Matter for Sarcoma
Updated July 15, 2021
Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer - with less than 20,000 new diagnoses occurring each year. Because it is so rare, not all doctors are familiar with how to treat these tumors effectively, which makes it especially important to seek a second opinion if you are diagnosed with a sarcoma.
Sarcomas are cancerous tumors that develop both in bone and in soft tissues such as fat, muscles, nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels, or deep skin tissues. Though they commonly form in the arms, legs, or torso, sarcomas can occur anywhere in the body. There are also more than 70 different types of soft tissue sarcomas, each affecting the body in a different way.
“They’re very rare,” said Jeffrey M. Farma, MD, FACS, a surgical oncologist and expert in Sarcoma at Fox Chase Cancer Center. “And not every practitioner is experienced in dealing with these types of tumors. Some hospitals may have never seen certain types of sarcomas before.”
In addition to being uncommon, sarcomas can be challenging to treat. “They have a high chance of recurring locally and can also spread elsewhere, even with aggressive treatment,” Farma said.
Ensuring you receive an accurate diagnosis is critical. This, along with seeking care at a place that can offer personalized, cutting-edge treatments, offers the greatest chance for success.
“It’s crucial to see a physician at an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center. You will be seen by a multidisciplinary team who specializes in sarcoma and can determine the best treatment plan for your specific disease,” Farma explained.
Sarcoma Second Opinions at Fox Chase
Not only do Fox Chase physicians have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating sarcomas, but they head panels of experts tasked with writing and updating sarcoma treatment guidelines that are used both nationally and globally. They also work with other world-renowned experts to conduct clinical trials, both for early and advanced stage sarcomas.
“When we see a patient with sarcoma, we think about how to best treat them as a team,” said Margaret von Mehren, MD, Chief of the Division of Sarcoma Oncology at Fox Chase. “Our program includes specialists in sarcoma medical oncology, surgical oncology, orthopedic surgical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology and pathology who review tumor biopsies and imaging to determine the best possible treatment for each case.”
Regardless of what treatment path you take—whether it starts with radiation, surgery, or chemotherapy—you can rest assured that a plan from Fox Chase fully considers every aspect of your diagnosis.
“A team approach is the most important thing,” Farma explained. “Almost all of our patients are discussed weekly in our tumor boards, and we come to a team consensus when planning their treatment.”
All sarcoma patients at Fox Chase are also offered enrollment in our organization’s sarcoma database, allowing for retrospective and prospective studies by Fox Chase researchers as well as national and international collaborative research projects.
“Our patients have greater access to treatment options that go beyond the standard of care that is available elsewhere,” said von Mehren.
Getting a Second Opinion Through Telehealth
The availability of telehealth appointments means that you can quickly and easily have a Fox Chase physician take a second look at your diagnosis and treatment plan no matter where you live.
“It gives patients across the country access to a phenomenal, multidisciplinary sarcoma program,” Farma said. “Only a handful of centers have what we have.”
And the process is just as straightforward as it would be with an in-person visit.
“A patient can send us their scans, we can review them in our tumor board just like we normally would, and then offer our opinion,” Farma said.