If you or your loved one have been diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma, the Sarcoma Care Program at Columbia can help. Our surgeons have the experience and expertise to bring you the best quality care, as safely as possible.
To make a surgical appointment with the Sarcoma Care Program, please call us at (212) 305-0273 today or request an appointment online.
- A Team For You: We deliver care through a multispecialty team of surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, nurses, and more. This entire team is in constant communication, meeting regularly to discuss each patient’s case and adjusting their personalized treatment plan as needed.
- Surgery From Trusted Hands: Because sarcomas can come in many different forms and appear almost anywhere on the body, surgical treatment can get extremely complex. It is important to see a surgeon with extensive experience operating on many different sarcoma cases, including difficult to treat retroperitoneal sarcomas (found in the back of the abdomen) and pelvic sarcomas. Our surgical oncologists are amongst the most experienced in the country.
- The Latest Clinical Trials: As a major academic facility, we are constantly conducting research to improve our understanding of sarcoma diagnosis and treatment. As a result, our patients can get access to the most promising clinical trials for innovative new treatments.
Soft tissue sarcomas are uncommon cancers that form in fat, muscle, connective tissue, nerve sheaths, and vessels. In the United States, there are only about 13,000 soft tissue sarcomas per year compared to about 200,000 lung cancers per year. They can appear anywhere in the body. About half of soft tissue sarcomas occur in the extremities, and about one-third occur in the abdomen or trunk.
There are over 100 different subtypes of soft tissue sarcoma, with the most common subtypes being liposarcoma, leiomyosarcoma, gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma, myxofibrosarcoma, synovial sarcoma, and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST). All these sarcoma subtypes appear differently on examination and on imaging studies, grow at different rates, and have different responses to surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation. This makes soft tissue sarcomas an extremely confusing group of tumors to treat, and it is best that those with sarcomas are cared for by a dedicated sarcoma specialist. If you have a mass that may be a sarcoma, sarcoma surgeons can evaluate you even prior to any diagnosis.
Causes of Soft Tissue Sarcomas
Sarcomas, like other cancers, are caused by gene changes or mutations in the tissue from which the tumor originates. These mutations occur at a low frequency, and if one is unlucky enough to have these mutations in genes that control cell growth, one can get a sarcoma. The vast majority of sarcomas are sporadic tumors with no identifiable cause. Anything that increases the gene mutation rate can increase the risk of cancer. Certain exposures that can increase one’s risk for developing a sarcoma include radiation therapy and certain chemicals and carcinogens. There are rare individuals with underlying genetic conditions such as neurofibromatosis, Gardner’s syndrome, and Li Fraumeni syndrome that predispose them to get sarcomas.
Symptoms of Soft Tissue Sarcomas
In the extremities or superficial trunk, sarcomas often do not cause any symptoms until they grow large enough to create a noticeable lump or swelling. In the abdomen or pelvis, these tumors can grow to large sizes, forming a mass that one can feel or one that causes abdominal bloating, decreased appetite, or weight loss. Abdominal and pelvic tumors can also press on veins causing leg swelling or on nerves causing leg pain and numbness. Other sarcomas are picked up on imaging studies done for the workup of unrelated medical problems such as kidney stones or low back pain.
Treatment of Soft Tissue Sarcomas
The treatment of sarcomas may include surgery, medical therapies (including chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and biological therapy), and radiation therapy. Each sarcoma subtype has different responses to surgery, medical therapy, and radiation therapy. Imaging tests are done to assess the extent of the original tumor and to make sure the disease has not spread. Often, a biopsy is performed to fully establish the diagnosis. Surgery is the best treatment option for most sarcomas, and sometimes chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy can be given to shrink the tumor or reduce the risk that the tumor comes back.
- Read more about the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and outlook of Sarcomas here.
- Learn more about specific considerations for retroperitoneal and pelvic sarcomas, including the use of aggressive surgical resection and advanced proton beam radiation therapy here
Highlights of Our Program
Advanced Treatment Strategies
Dr. Sam Yoon, Chief of Columbia’s Division of Surgical Oncology, is a pioneer in the use of novel radiation strategies and aggressive surgical resection to reduce local recurrence rates for retroperitoneal (back of abdomen) and pelvis sarcomas. Dr. Yoon and colleagues developed a strategy to treat retroperitoneal and pelvis sarcomas with proton beam radiation before surgery and then aggressively resect them. Any close surgical margin is then treated in the operating room with a boost of electron radiation. This strategy has been shown through clinical trials to be a safe and effective way to significantly reduce the sarcoma’s recurrence.
Part of a Comprehensive Cancer Center
Our team works as part of Columbia’s Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the only certified comprehensive centers in the country as determined by the National Cancer Institute. We have the resources, the personnel, and the passion to help put an end to cancer.
A World-Leading Hospital
Our hospital partners at NewYork-Presbyterian give us access to the latest technology, advanced diagnostic testing, and state-of-the-art operating rooms to make sure your treatment is fast, comfortable, and effective.
Columbia Virtual Visits
For some appointments, it may not be necessary to come into the office at all. We offer Virtual Visit telehealth appointments, so you can see your doctor from the comfort of your own home. When you contact us to make an appointment, our team will work with you to determine if a Virtual Visit is right for you.
Our Sarcoma Care Program is led by a team of doctors, surgeons, and nurses from multiple specialties.
A surgical oncologist is a doctor who specializes in the surgical treatment of cancer. They are responsible for performing surgical biopsies as well as for conducting any surgical procedures to remove tumors or treat cancerous areas.
A medical oncologist diagnoses cancer and directs treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted biological therapies.
A radiation oncologist is a doctor who specializes in using radiation treatments to treat cancerous growths. They are responsible for examining the patient to determine the proper dose of radiation, and will work closely with the surgeon and dosimetrist to create a plan to deliver the radiation safely and effectively.
Other Specialists We Work With
- Pathologists, who examine tissue and fluid to look for changes in cells in order to classify a tumor’s diagnosis and subtype and look for markers that will help your care team determine the best course of treatment for you.
- Orthopedic oncologists, who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment (including surgery) of bone cancer.
- Reconstructive/plastic surgeons, surgeons who are trained in operations to restore form and function to parts of the body.
- Nurses and nurse practitioners, who provide hands-on medical and supportive care along your journey. Nurse navigators may also help you through specific processes, such as enrolling in a clinical trial.
- Mental health experts, including our sarcoma psychosocial oncology team, who help you and your family cope with the wide range of emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis.
- Social workers, who can help you find resources in the community and provide emotional support.
- Integrative health practitioners, including reiki, massage, acupuncture, yoga therapy, meditation and more, to help you deal with the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of cancer treatment and survivorship.
- Nutritionists, to help you create and follow a plan that will support the healing your body must do during and after cancer treatment.
- Physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists, who help you regain function you might have lost due to surgery or treatment side effects.
- Spiritual practitioners, multifaith chaplains who can help with your religious, spiritual, and emotional needs and help you make decisions, participate in religious rituals, and more.
- Palliative care specialists, who are experts in reducing symptoms like nausea and pain.
To make a surgical appointment with the Sarcoma Care Program, please call us at (212) 305-0273 or request an appointment online today.
Our office is located at:
Washington Heights-NYP/Columbia University Irving Medical Center (Main Campus)
Milstein Hospital Building, Room 7-002
177 Fort Washington Ave
New York, NY 10032
1 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, NY 10708
Clinic hours on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month
Hudson Valley-NYP/Hudson Valley Hospital
1985 Crompond Road, Building E
Corlandt Manor, NY 10567
Clinic hours on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month
We accept most major insurance plans and can verify your plan when you call to make your appointment. Medical records can be faxed to (646) 317-1294