Sarcoma treatment

What if you could find experts in treating sarcoma close to home? Now you can, at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Here, you have access to highly trained and skilled physicians who specialize in sarcoma, like medical oncologist Samir Undevia, M.D., associate medical director at Edward-Elmhurst Health, who also runs the sarcoma program at the University of Chicago Medicine. Another sarcoma specialist is surgical oncologist George Salti, M.D., director of surgical oncology at Edward-Elmhurst Health, who is also on the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

It’s not just our expertise that sets us apart. It’s also our comprehensive, collaborative approach.

First, we provide the latest diagnostic tools to accurately diagnose and stage sarcoma. Then, experts from many different disciplines get in a room together and outline the most appropriate treatment approach for you. We continue to hold these multidisciplinary conferences each week to discuss the progress of your treatment.

Our sarcoma experts are skilled in advanced techniques to treat sarcoma, and we actively participate in clinical trials to stay on top of the latest approaches. From the minute you contact us throughout your treatment, we support you through every aspect of your care.

Sarcoma diagnosis & staging

Your individualized sarcoma treatment plan starts with an accurate diagnosis. We use advanced diagnostic technology to accurately evaluate the disease.

We now have a better understanding that not all sarcomas are the same. In addition to determining cancer type, extent of disease (i.e., localized, advanced metastatic), and tumor stage, we can evaluate the molecular features and specific cancer driver genetic alterations of each patient’s tumor to customize treatment.

Sarcoma surgery

Since soft tissue sarcoma tumors can appear almost anywhere in the body, surgery depends on the site and size of the sarcoma. Some sarcomas can be difficult to remove if the tumor is next to vital organs.

Our expert surgeons are skilled in intricate surgical procedures to locate and remove soft tissue sarcoma tumors. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor along with part of the normal tissue around it to make sure no cancer cells are left behind. Some patients undergo plastic or reconstructive surgery at the time of surgery to restore the area where the tumor was removed.

Many sarcoma patients worry about limb functionality after surgery. In the past, many sarcomas in the arms and legs were treated by removing the limb. Our expert surgical oncologists perform limb-sparing surgery whenever possible to avoid amputation.

Other surgical options for soft tissue sarcomas are wide local incision and laparoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive procedure often used for those with abdominal sarcoma (e.g., gastrointestinal stromal tumors or GISTs).

If the sarcoma has spread to distant sites, such as the lungs (the most common location for sarcoma to spread), the cancer is removed plus the areas of spread, if possible. If the disease has reached the lymph nodes, the nodes will be removed.

You may need radiation therapy, chemotherapy or both to shrink the tumor before surgery. If cancer cells are left after surgery, may receive radiation therapy and/or other treatments to ensure all cancer cells are gone.

Sarcoma radiation therapy

You may receive radiation therapy before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that may be left behind. Radiation therapy can also be used as a palliative treatment to help ease symptoms of metastatic sarcoma. For those who can’t have surgery, radiation therapy may be the main treatment for soft tissue sarcoma.

Our radiation oncologists offer advanced radiation technologies to target soft tissue sarcoma while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible:

  • EBRT (external beam radiation)
  • IMRT (intensity modulated radiation therapy) with respiratory gating to adjust for tumor motion, as tumors near the lungs often move as a result of breathing. This helps us to target the tumor, protect healthy tissue from radiation, and reduce side effects.
  • SBRT (stereotactic body radiation therapy)

Sarcoma chemotherapy, immunotherapy & targeted therapy

With genomic testing, we can tailor your sarcoma treatment specifically to your needs. We collect a tissue sample during a biopsy, and then test the tissue for certain markers to help guide drug therapy.

Immunotherapy drugs for sarcoma are designed to stimulate your immune system to attack the cancer. Targeted therapies, such as imatinib (Gleevec®), are designed to block the growth and spread of disease by attacking sarcoma cells specifically. Each of these methods help reduce unpleasant and unnecessary side effects.

Sarcoma care team

Most sarcoma patients need an integrated approach that includes multimodalities. At Edward-Elmhurst Health, you have a multidisciplinary team of sarcoma experts working for you, including, but not limited to:

  • Surgical oncologist
  • Radiation oncologist
  • Medical oncologist
  • Pathologist
  • Palliative care provider
  • Geneticist
  • Patient navigator (nurse)
  • Social worker

Meet our sarcoma experts

Sarcoma nurse navigators

Nurse navigators assist you and your family immediately following a sarcoma diagnosis all the way through treatment and into survivorship.

Your nurse navigator can help answer your questions, advocate for you, schedule your appointments and coordinate care between your physician, surgeon and other support services. They also partner with social workers to handle everything from paperwork for financial issues to disability information. You’ll have a direct phone number to call your nurse navigator any time.

Sarcoma support

Edward-Elmhurst Health offers a variety of support services to help you through your sarcoma journey. Our rehabilitation services, including physical and occupational therapy, can help you improve your physical functioning, energy level and strength throughout sarcoma treatment.

Social work and palliative care support is also readily available throughout your care.

Sarcoma survivorship

Many sarcoma patients worry about risk of recurrence. Our support continues long after treatment is complete. We’ll meet with you and provide a survivorship care plan, including ongoing surveillance, so you know what to watch for and when to contact us should you have any concerns.