Difference Between Cancer and Sarcoma

Main Difference – Cancer vs Sarcoma

Cancer and Sarcoma are two terms used in the field of Oncology; these are often used interchangeably due to the lack of knowledge about the clear-cut differentiation between them. Cancer can be divided into five major types and sarcoma is one of these categories. The main difference between cancer and sarcoma is that cancer originates in the epithelial tissue whereas sarcomas develop in the mesodermal tissue.

In this article, we will focus on,

1. What is Cancer? – Pathology, Common Causes, Types, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Prognosis 

2. What is Sarcoma? – Common Causes, Types, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Prognosis 

3. Difference Between Cancer and Sarcoma

Difference Between Cancer and Sarcoma - Cancer vs Sarcoma Comparison Summary

What is a Cancer

Our body has control over the  mechanisms of cell growth and division; it decides where new cells will be formed, replacing older ones so that maximum efficiency of bodily functions will be maintained. In fact, damaged or older cells will be removed from the body replacing them with brand-new ones. If this balance of cell growth and death is disrupted, a pathological condition will develop and come into action with a rapid cellular growth. This uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body is known as cancer.

Genetic factors, positive family history, UV rays exposure, radiation, chemicals like Benzene, smoking, tobacco chewing, viruses, etc. are known to be the commonest causes for various cancers developing in the body.

Cancers can develop anywhere in the body although breast cancers and prostate cancers account for the commonest among women and men, respectively. Both lung cancers and colorectal cancers equally affect both genders.

There are 5 major types of Cancers:

  • Carcinomas which begin in the skin or tissues, lining internal organs
  • Sarcomas in the bone, cartilage, fat, muscle or other connective tissues
  • Leukemia in blood and bone marrow
  • Lymphomas in immunity system
  • Central nervous system cancers, invading the brain and spinal cord.

Symptoms of cancer mainly depend on the location and severity of cancer. Lung cancer patients experience shortness of breath, chronic cough, bleeding with cough (Hemoptysis) or chest pain. Colorectal cancer results in rectal bleeding and altered bowel habits. However, in general, all the patients will complain of weakness, fatigue, unexplained fever, loss of weight and loss of appetite, night sweats, chills, etc.

Cancer is mainly diagnosed by biopsy, where a sample of the suspected tissue is removed or drained and observed under the microscope so that abnormally divided cells could be noted. CT or MRI scan are used to identify the exact location of the cancer and its spread. The latest type known as positron emission tomography (PET) is now used widely to determine the type. Other tests may include blood tests (full blood count, liver function test), Bone marrow biopsy (lymphoma or leukemia) and Chest x-ray to exclude possible metastasis.

As far as the methods of treatment are concerned, they are mainly based on the type of cancer, location, severity and health and fitness of the patient. Chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, targeted cancer therapy and biological therapy play the hallmark of cancer management.

The prognosis of a patient affected by cancer depends on the location, size, and severity. Cancerous growths usually have a poor prognosis most of the time, but it all depends on the factors mentioned above, along with the stage at diagnosis. In fact, some cancers can be cured without much effort whereas some are fatal and could only be managed symptomatically with the help of palliative care.

Other integrative processes include nutrition therapy, naturopathic therapy, oncology rehabilitation and mind-body therapy.

Difference Between Cancer and Sarcoma

What is a Sarcoma

Sarcoma is a rare type of carcinoma which affects connective tissues in the body in places such as bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage, nerves, fat, and blood vessels. Accounting for more than 50 different types, Sarcoma can mainly be divided into soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma or osteosarcoma.

Positive family history, Paget’s disease, genetic disorders like neurofibromatosis, Gardner syndrome and retinoblastoma and radiation therapy for cancer are known to be the commonest etiological factors for Sarcoma.

Soft tissue sarcomas are often left undiagnosed since they can grow anywhere in the body. Patients will usually complain of a painless lump in the first place, and when it increases in size, it tends to press against nerves or muscles and result in difficulty in breathing and discomfort. This is mainly a clinical diagnosis.

Major signs and symptoms of Osteosarcoma include, on and off pain in the affected bone, often worsening at night accompanied by swelling, which may start about one week after the onset of pain and limping, in case of sarcomas in the leg. Children and young adults are at a higher risk of getting affected by this condition.

Methods of diagnosis are similar to those of cancer and specifically include a bone scan if osteosarcoma is suspected.

Radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery are indicated as treatment types which are based on the severity and type of sarcoma.

Main Difference - Cancer vs Sarcoma

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) image of a sarcoma

Difference Between Cancer and Sarcoma


Cancer originates in the epithelial tissue (lining of breast, lung and Prostate gland).

Sarcomas develop in the mesodermal tissue.


Cancer is very common among the general population.

Sarcoma marks only 1% out of them and very rare.


Cancer primarily affects people over 50 years of age.

Sarcoma mostly affects children and young adults.

Common Types

Commonest types of Cancer include those of lungs, liver, stomach, colon, rectum, etc.

Commonest types of Sarcoma include bone, muscle, fat, nerves, cartilage, fibrous tissue (ligaments and connect tissue) and blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma.

Image Courtesy:

” Symptoms of cancer metastasis” By Häggström, Mikael. “Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014”. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008. ISSN 20018762. (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

“Nibib 030207 105309 sarcoma” By  Dr. Stephen Boppart, Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. EB 005221 – NIBIB, (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia 

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music