Synovial sarcoma (SS) is a rare form of cancer where the proliferation of cancerous cells mainly arise in the soft tissues, which attach, aid, and surround the bones and organs in our body. These may very well encompass blood, fat, muscle, or lymph vessels, nerves, tendons, and the lining of your joints.
The word “synovial” comes from the name of the lining of the joints, i.e., synovium. But despite the name, in maximum cases, cancer typically doesn’t metastasize in the interior of joints, where synovial tissue and fluid are situated. The sarcoma can spread not only in the synovium but also dissipate in other soft tissues surrounding a joint.
The preliminary indication of the problem is usually a deep-seated lump that may be tender to touch and exhibit pain. Synovial sarcoma is slow-growing cancer and symptoms can take a long time to finally crop up. While Synovial sarcoma can occur in young children, they are generally diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 and 40.
Being an extremely rare type of sarcoma, very few people get this disease and it accounts for less than 1% of all cancerous conditions.
While the immediate cause of synovial sarcoma isn’t clear, just like other forms of cancer. But several scientific studies reveal that there is a genetic connection behind this form of soft tissue cancer. In reality, in more than 90 per cent of cases, Synovial sarcoma comprises a particular mutation in the genes in which parts of chromosome 18 and chromosome X switch places. But the true causative factor behind this abrupt mutation is still unknown. The genetic changes in the DNA of the healthy cells cause them to abnormally increase in number and size without perishing on time and eventually amassing to form humorous growth.
Synovial sarcoma doesn’t arise due to germinal mutation (a type of genetic change that can be passed from one generation to another), rather it is a somatic mutation (which means that the genetic change is not hereditary.)
Certain causative factors that increase the risk of Synovial sarcoma include:
Age: While it can occur at any age, its more commonly diagnosed in teens and young adults
Health Condition: Diagnosed with certain inherited conditions such as Neurofibromatosis type 1 or Li-Fraumeni syndrome increases the incidence of Synovial sarcoma
Exposure To Radiation: Getting exposed to radiation or undergoing treatment for other cancerous conditions increases the risk of Synovial sarcoma
Subject To Carcinogens: Coming close to chemical carcinogenic substances regularly such as vinyl chloride, thorium dioxide, or arsenic makes an individual more prone to this type of soft tissue sarcoma
Since Synovial sarcoma is slow-growing cancer, one may not exhibit or experience any early signs or symptoms. But as these tumours grow in size, you might notice a lump or swollen spot. Some of the characteristic signs and symptoms that do come up later on include:
- A painless lump that occurs on the hip, knee, ankle or shoulder
- Sudden shooting pain in the knee, hip, ankle or shoulder
- Swelling and inflammation that materialize in the hip, knee, ankle or shoulder
Diagnosis And Treatment
If you uncover any of the above-mentioned signs or symptoms, do communicate them with a doctor right away to get examined and treated at the earliest. The doctor first does a thorough physical check-up to detect any lumps or masses on the body to know if it hurts, asserts the patient’s past medical and genetic history and conducts some diagnostics. These include:
- Imaging procedures including MRI-scan, X-ray, CT scan, and Ultrasound are done to examine the size of the tumour and search for indications in case cancer has spread to other parts of the body
- Genetic tests to examine errors in the DNA strand that are usually seen in most SS tumours
- Biopsy to cross-check the presence of cancer and its type
The susceptible treatment options mainly depend on the specific location, size of the tumour, the stage it is in and the overall health and capability of the patient. This includes:
- Surgery: A procedure done to remove the tumour and surrounding infected tissue
- Chemotherapy: Usage of several types of drugs or chemicals to kill cancer cells
- Radiation Therapy: Usage of strong beams of energy to destroy the cancer cells or prevent them from growing
- Immunotherapy: A treatment that works by provoking the body’s innate immune system to synthesize more cancer-fighting cells or healthy cells
- Targeted Therapy: Usage of drugs to obstruct substances in or on the cancer cells that allow them to thrive
- Anti-angiogenesis Drugs: Usage of medicines that block blood vessel production, practically annihilating the cancer cells by withholding the blood supply they need to grow