Diagnosis and Staging

Patients are referred to the Sarcoma team through their family doctors and are seen at one of the clinics below for diagnosis and staging of their cancer. Pediatric patients are seen at Sick Kids hospital, click here for a link to the oncology clinic page.

What should I expect during a clinic visit?

Patients are asked for a detailed medical history including a list of medications (bring a list with you!) and the doctors will look at any medical imaging (MRI, CT, x-ray, ultrasound or PET) that has been done. You may be asked by the doctor’s medical assistant to bring a copy of your imaging on disk with you to your clinic visit. Since the sarcoma program is based at teaching hospitals, you will likely be seen by additional doctors aside from your specialist. Your medical team will likely do a physical examination and may send you to get some blood drawn for routine testing.  You may also see one of the sarcoma research team staff for information on our internationally-renowned research program or information on potential enrolment in a clinical study.

What information is needed to diagnose/grade my sarcoma?

A diagnosis of sarcoma is made by a thorough examination of a small piece of tissue after a biopsy or excision of the tumor by an expert sarcoma pathologist. This can include many specialized molecular tests since sarcoma is a rare cancer and the process of diagnosis may take many weeks due to the complexity of this process. Doctors will also look at any medical imaging that has been done in combination with a detailed medical history to come to a diagnosis of one of the types of sarcoma. The grade of your tumor may also be determined during diagnosis. Grading a tumor is done by looking at the tumor cells and growth, with low grade tumors growing slowly and high grade tumors quickly growing.  This information will help your medical team to determine which treatment to offer you.

What is the process of “staging” my sarcoma?

Once the patient has a diagnosis of sarcoma through a biopsy or excision of their tumor, the doctors will look at the whole body through imaging to find out what the extent of the cancer is and if it has spread to other tissues. This is called “Staging” of the cancer and can involve a combination of a physical examination, medical imaging (MRI, CT, x-ray, ultrasound or PET) and possibly additional biopsies. Staging of cancer is important to determine what treatment will be beneficial.

What is a multidisciplinary approach to my treatment plan?

All new patients are discussed at a weekly meeting where the entire sarcoma team, including surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists will review the case and decide on a treatment plan. These meetings are called “Multidisciplinary Cancer Conferences (MCC)” and are useful for the patient’s care team to have interactive and focused discussion on a treatment plan to ensure that all options are being explored for the patient.


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