July, Sarcoma and Bone Cancer Awareness Month
Like nearly every month of the year, during July, medical professionals, cancer patients, caregivers, and the general population is trying to raise awareness of certain malignant diseases.
July is sarcoma and bone cancer awareness month, as well as UV safety month.
There are numerous ways in which you can increase awareness concerning these forms of cancer, such as sharing information with your environment, participating in events held on these occasions, sharing inspiring stories of survivors, and so on.
Sarcoma Awareness Month
As a rare type of cancer, sarcoma develops in the bones and in the soft tissues of the body, affecting 12,000 people in the United States every year. The soft tissues sarcoma can arise from include muscle, fat, blood vessels, tendons, nerves, and the lining of the joints. There are more than 70 different types of sarcoma, the most common being soft tissue sarcoma. While the exact cause of this cancer has not yet been found by medical researchers, some of the most notable risk factors for sarcoma are the following:
- inherited syndromes such as familial retinoblastoma and neurofibromatosis type 1
- undergoing radiotherapy for another cancer
- chronic swelling, medically known as lymphedema, which increases the risk of angiosarcoma
- exposure to chemicals such as herbicides, vinyl chloride, and dioxins
- exposure to viruses such as human herpesvirus 8 that weakens the immune system
Some of the early symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma are a painless lump under the skin that cannot be easily moved around, and that grows larger over time, accompanied by swelling, abdominal pain and swelling, a constant feeling of fullness, constipation, and swelling around the lungs that may cause a chronic cough or shortness of breath. If you experience any of these symptoms, particularly if one or more risk factors are present in your life, we encourage you to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
The following are some of the soft tissue sarcoma subtypes and some useful information about each of them:
- angiosarcoma: this sarcoma starts in the lining of the blood vessels and lymph vessels and can occur anywhere in the body, but is most often found in the skin on your head and neck
- epithelioid sarcoma: it usually develops at a slow pace and, in most cases, it begins in the tissue under the skin of a finger, hand, forearm, or lower leg or foot
- liposarcoma: this cancer occurs in the fat tissue of your body, often starting in the muscles of the limbs or in the abdomen, and the most effective treatment for it is surgery
- rhabdomyosarcoma: it forms in the skeletal muscle tissue or, in rare cases, in hollow organs such as the bladder or the uterus but can affect any part of the body
It is worthy of note that approximately 900 children receive a diagnosis of sarcoma annually throughout the country, as this cancer does not only affect adults. If you want to raise awareness of sarcoma, you can do so in the following ways:
- learn the facts about sarcoma and share the information with other people, whether it is in person or on social media
- participate in a walk, hike, challenge, or event whose purpose is to increase sarcoma visibility
- make a donation to a non-profit cancer organization that is helping people with sarcoma and their caregivers
- change your Facebook frame on your account
- share the stories of sarcoma survivors on social media as a way to inspire other people
Bone Cancer Awareness Month
Bone cancer, which also includes sarcoma, is also a rare malignant disease, with a little over 3,600 people diagnosed every year in the United States. It accounts for 0.2% of all cancers in the country. Malignancy can start in any part of any bone in the body, and it is noteworthy that soft tissue sarcoma can begin in the bone as well, although these cases are rare. Some of the most common bone cancer types are the following:
- chondrosarcoma: it occurs on the cartilage and is more prevalent in adults
- Ewing sarcoma: it affects the bones and the tissue around the bones and primarily occurs in children and young adults
- chordoma: as another type of bone sarcoma, this cancer starts in the spinal cord
- osteosarcoma: this cancer begins growing in a leg bone around the knee joint, either near the femur (the lower end of the thigh bone) or near the tibia (the upper end of the shinbone)
Chondrosarcoma makes up over 40% of primary bone sarcomas in adults, with the average age of diagnosis being 51. The risk factors for bone cancer are approximately the same as those for soft tissue sarcoma. Furthermore, a history of treatment with chemotherapy for another malignant disease is another risk factor for bone cancer. The next most common bone sarcomas are osteosarcoma, chordoma, and Ewing sarcoma. Over 34% of cases of bone cancer are found in the long bones of the lower body. Some of the symptoms people with bone cancer experience are the following:
Because bone cancer is so rare, it is essential to raise awareness of it, as many people receive their diagnosis when their disease has already spread to nearby organs and tissues. If you want to raise awareness of bone cancer and bone sarcoma, you can do the following:
- wear orange
- use the hashtag #SarcomaAwareness on social media when sharing the stories of bone cancer survivors or facts about the disease
- change your Facebook frame on your account
- donate money to a non-profit cancer organization or to a hospital that has a department of oncology
UV Safety Month
Lastly, July is UV safety month, as, in many places around the world, the sunlight is the most powerful during this period of time. Because excessive exposure to sunlight is closely linked to skin cancer, encouraging people to protect themselves against ultraviolet radiation is crucial, especially during the summer. In fact, exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer, which affects 5.4 million people in the US every year.
While ultraviolet A radiation can pass through glass and causes premature aging, wrinkling of the skin, as well as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, ultraviolet B radiation cannot penetrate glass and is more closely associated with skin cancer and melanoma. Therefore, both types of ultraviolet radiation are harmful, and you should take the following protective measures involving sunscreen when going out in the sun in order to avoid skin cancer:
- wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30
- use lip balm or lipstick with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher
- apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outside so it can be thoroughly absorbed by your skin
- reapply sunscreen every 2 hours
- wear sunscreen during the entire year, as ultraviolet radiation is powerful even in the winter months
- do not use expired sunscreen
Furthermore, cancer organizations provide the following pieces of advice when it comes to avoiding or lowering your risk of skin cancer:
- Limit your sun exposure: The rays of the sun are the most powerful between 10 AM and 4 PM and, thereby, you should practice the shadow rule, namely if your shadow is shorter than you, you need to stay out of direct sunlight. Moreover, children younger than 6 months should be kept completely out of the sun, in the shade.
- Keep in mind the UV index: The UV index is a standard measurement of the power of the sun rays and informs you about how damaging sun exposure will be on a particular day. It is usually announced in the weather report. When it is 10 or higher, it is better to spend your time indoors.
- Pay attention to reflective surfaces: It is also important to know that sand, water, and snow have the ability to reflect the powerful sun rays and significantly increase your risk of experiencing sunburns.
- Wear sunglasses and protective clothing: If you need to go out in the sun, it is recommended to wear a shirt with long sleeves, a hat, and long pants. Moreover, you should know that dark clothes made of tightly-woven fabric block more sunlight than white clothes or clothes with loosely woven fabric. As for your sunglasses, you need to make sure that they have 99% to 100% UV absorption.
- Be aware of the side effects of certain medications: There are some medications that, if you take, make you more sensitive to the rays of the sun. These include antifungals, blood pressure drugs, some antibiotics, various chemotherapy drugs, and anti-inflammatory medication.
- Do not willingly expose yourself to sunlight: Avoid recreational sunbathing, as well as tanning beds, sun lamps, and tanning salons.
In July, we strongly encourage you to raise awareness of sarcoma, bone cancer, and the dangers of excessive sun exposure. If every person makes a small effort to increase the visibility of these diseases and of the issue of UV radiation every year, we will hopefully witness a decrease in the number of people who develop sarcoma and bone cancer, as well as in those who get skin cancer.