Treating Sarcomas of the Brain in New Jersey
Sarcoma is a term for a group of cancers that develop in the body’s connective tissue, such as muscle or fat. Sarcoma can also develop in brain tissue and are considered primary brain tumors. This is a less common group of cancers that can occur at any age, but most frequently develops in children. The doctors at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics in New Jersey can treat every type of brain tumor, including sarcomas of the brain: gliosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and rhabdomyosarcoma.
Types of Sarcomas
If a patient has a primary brain tumor, this means their cancer originated in their brain, rather than developing in a different part of the body and then spreading to the brain. The medical team at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics treats several types of primary sarcomas, including:
- Chondrosarcoma: These slow-growing, malignant tumors can occur in the base of the skull or the spine, as well as in other cartilage cells throughout the body.
- Gliosarcoma: This is a rare type of glioma. Gliomas are tumors that originate in the glial cells of the brain.
- Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS): This is a type of malignant tumor that can occur anywhere on the body but presents most commonly in the head and neck.
Symptoms of Sarcomas
The symptoms caused by sarcoma of the brain may depend on the patient’s age, overall health, and the location and size of their tumor, as detailed below:
- Facial numbness
- Hearing loss
- Nasal congestion
- Trouble with balance
- Vision problems
- Memory or cognitive problems
- Trouble with balance or movement
- Bleeding in the nose, throat, or ears
- Bulging or swelling of the eyes
Causes and Risk Factors
While each case is different, in general, doctors aren’t sure what causes sarcomas. There are many different types of sarcoma (more than 50), and some have clear risk factors.
- Chondrosarcomas are more likely to occur in older adults. Patients who have other bone conditions, like Maffucci syndrome or Ollier disease, may be at higher risk of developing this type of tumor.
- Gliosarcoma occurs most often in patients between the ages of 40 and 60, but it can happen at any age. Genetics, as well as prior radiation exposure, may be risk factors. Gliosarcomas are slightly more prevalent in men than in women, and they are most common among white and non-Hispanic people.
- Rhabdomyosarcoma is most common in children and is slightly more common among boys than girls. There is a higher incidence of rhabdomyosarcoma among children exposed to chemicals. A family history of cancer may also be a risk factor for this type of tumor.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Patients with sarcoma of the brain typically require a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis. Other tests that may help accurately diagnose a patient are:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This common scan can show the location and size of a brain tumor.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan: This scan can check if a patient’s cancer has spread beyond their brain to other parts of their body.
- Lab tests: Doctors may use blood and/or bone marrow tests to determine if cancer has spread to these areas.
- Neurological exam: Doctors may test things like a patient’s balance, coordination, and sense of smell to rule out other conditions.
The medical team at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics will develop a unique treatment plan for each patient. Patients may be treated with radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, or a combination of two or more of these therapies, depending on the type and stage of their sarcoma:
Chondrosarcomas typically grow slowly, but they have a high incidence of recurrence. Surgery and radiation therapy are often used in combination to treat chondrosarcoma and reduce the risk of recurrence. Depending on the location of the tumor, there are different surgical methods for treating chondrosarcoma:
- Transsphenoidal surgery, where the neurosurgeon accesses the tumor through the patient’s nose
- Craniotomy, where a part of the patient’s skull bone is removed to expose the brain and remove the tumor. The bone flap is temporarily removed and then replaced once the surgery is complete.
Gliosarcomas are typically surgically removed – both to remove as much of the tumor as possible, and to confirm a diagnosis. All gliosarcomas are classified as Grade IV tumors, meaning they are cancerous and the fastest-growing type of tumor. Because of this aggressive growth rate, many patients with gliosarcomas will receive radiation therapy, immunotherapy, or chemotherapy after surgery.
Rhabdomyosarcoma is less aggressive than gliosarcoma and can be easier to treat. Patients with rhabdomyosarcoma may receive an initial round of chemotherapy to reduce the size of their tumor, followed by surgery or radiation therapy.
Each patient is different, and not all tumors will respond to radiation or chemotherapy. Some tumors cannot be surgically removed, or can only be partially removed, because of proximity to critical areas of the brain. The surgeons and oncologists at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics work with each patient individually to help them understand the prognosis, treatment options, and success rates for each type of sarcoma.
Schedule an Appointment with Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics
Gliosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and rhabdomyosarcoma are just a few of the many types of brain tumors treated by the award-winning medical team at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics. With multiple locations across NJ, patients can find expert care at a center that’s conveniently located for them. CNSO neurosurgeons utilize the most up-to-date medical technologies to treat primary brain tumors and offer comprehensive care in partnership with endocrinologists, radiation oncologists, and pain management physicians. For more information or to set up an appointment, contact CNSO today.