Although its name may have you think otherwise, synovial sarcoma actually has nothing to do with the synovial tissues found in the body’s joints. Nonetheless, it’s still a dangerous form of cancer worth knowing about, considering how few people are affected by it every year. While the below should serve as a sufficient primer, if you suspect you or a loved one has developed synovial sarcoma, you’ll want to speak to a doctor right away.
Frequency of Synovial Sarcoma
Synovial sarcoma is an extremely rare form of cancer. As a type of sarcoma, it begins as connective tissue in the body, before the proliferation of cells grows into something dangerous. Its rarity means that, at most, only about three people in a million will be diagnosed with it every year.
While it can affect a person at any age, males seem to be at a slightly higher risk. For every 10 patients diagnosed, 12 men will develop synovial sarcoma.
Causes of Synovial Sarcoma
We know that synovial sarcoma is most likely to begin spreading from the legs or arms, though this isn’t always the case. As a high-grade tumor, though, synovial sarcoma spreads to other sites in the body, sometimes quite the distance, in about 50% of cases. Under the microscope, this form of sarcoma can take on a number of different appearances depending on the specific gene mutation it entails.
As with many types of sarcoma, there is no known risk factor for this one. It is believed to be associated with a specific chromosomal translocation, though, t(X;18) (p11;q11). What that means is that in synovial sarcoma tumors, the cells show that chromosome 18 and X have switched spots. Unfortunately, we don’t yet know if this switch is something that just happens at random or if it is part of a specific sequence of events. Whatever the case, this switch is what causes the mutated gene found in synovial sarcoma cells which many believe is at the root of the cancer.
Symptoms of Synovial Sarcoma
Synovial sarcoma can come with a few different symptoms. It all depends on where the tumor forms on the body. However, there are some general ones that apply:
- Limitation of bodily function, especially in the head and neck region. Patients may develop a difficulty swallowing or even breathing. The sound of their voice could change too.
- Painful sensations, particularly when the tumor happens near a nerve or nerves.
From the outside, synovial sarcoma will often be noticeable because of a growing mass. As it may often be painless and usually grows very slowly, many have made the mistake of thinking the tumor was relatively harmless. It can be so deep-seated that it is easy to miss as well.
This is also why patients are usually scheduled for ongoing CT scans even after the tumor is removed. A reoccurrence could be easy to miss.
In less than 10% of cases, patients are diagnosed after metastases has occurred. When it does, the cancer has usually moved from the original site to the lungs, though other locations are possible as well.
Treatment and Prognosis
Surgery is the primary treatment for synovial sarcoma with the goal being to remove the entire tumor. Chemotherapy may also be used, especially if the cancer is in an advanced stage.
If the cancer is caught early enough and surgery commences right away, the prognosis is generally very good. However, if a patient has a rare subtype of synovial sarcoma and it was able to advance, the outlook is much worse.
This just highlights why you should always see a doctor the moment you think you may have a growth anywhere on your body. Whether it’s synovial sarcoma or some other type of cancer, you’ll be far better off if it’s addressed immediately.