The most common types of bone sarcomas are osteosarcoma, Ewing's sarcoma, chondrosarcoma and spindle cell sarcoma.

Bone sarcomas are particularly aggressive tumours that are usually treated with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Modern surgery of the head and neck aims for two goals:

  • To completely remove the tumour
  • To preserve or to restore function and appearance of the patient. This is usually done by replacing the affected bone and soft tissue with similar tissues from other parts of the body aiming to replace “like with like”.

Soft tissue sarcomas account for about 1% of all malignant tumours. The cause of these tumours is not known, although they may be linked with previous radiotherapy, some toxins, and very rarely may be hereditary. They can affect any age group, although are more common in people of middle-age and the elderly, and less common in younger age groups.

Only 5% of the overall soft tissue sarcomas arise in the head and neck area. Patients with soft tissue sarcoma usually present with a lump and therefore any increasing lump over 5cm should be seen in a Sarcoma Centre.

Newly diagnosed soft tissue sarcomas are usually treated with surgery, sometimes followed by radiotherapy. Chemotherapy may also be used to treat tumours that have not spread elsewhere, although this is less common. Radiotherapy is sometimes used after surgery or instead of surgery if an operation is not possible.

The head and neck sarcoma team work closely with colleagues from the London Sarcoma Service (one of the largest sarcoma services in Europe run by UCLH and The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital). Together they discuss patients with sarcoma of the head and neck at the head and neck multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting. This meeting involves specialists from many clinical disciplines who review your individual case and offer a consensus recommendation for treatment.

Read more about the London Sarcoma Service.