Synovial Sarcoma

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Norton Children’s Cancer Institute

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Synovial sarcoma, also called malignant synovioma, typically develops near joints in the wrist or ankle. It is a rare cancer and is considered aggressive because it can grow quickly and spread to other parts of the body.

As the tumor grows, the patient may notice a lump or swelling that may limit the ability to move a joint or cause numbness if it interferes with nerves.

Synovial sarcoma is very rare, affecting one or two people out of a million every year in the U.S. About one-third of patients are first diagnosed before age 30. The survival rate for synovial sarcoma can be difficult to estimate because there are so few patients, but researchers expect between 36% to 76% will live at least five years after their diagnosis.

Factors affecting the survival rate of synovial sarcoma include the tumor’s location, whether the cancer has spread and how much can be removed during surgery. By their nature, long-term survival rates don’t reflect the latest advancements in treatment and may underestimate current survival chances.

Rare and complicated cancers in children require experienced and skilled oncologists. Consulting with a pediatric cancer specialist offers the best opportunity for early diagnosis and successful treatment.

The board-certified and fellowship-trained oncologists at Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, come together at regular conferences to share viewpoints from various perspectives that help determine the best course of treatment. It’s like getting second, third and fourth opinions all at once.

By staying at the forefront of research, our physicians are experienced with newly approved therapies for synovial sarcoma and can provide access to clinical trials of experimental treatments.

Synovial Sarcoma Diagnosis and Treatment

Like many childhood and adolescent cancers, synovial sarcoma can have vague symptoms that can be easily overlooked or attributed to other causes. If the health care provider suspects synovial sarcoma, they will order imaging tests such as a CT scan and MRI. The images will show details of the tumor, its size, depth and precise location.

A biopsy — removal of a small sample of the tumor with a needle — can help narrow down the diagnosis. The tissue sample will be examined under a microscope by a pathologist to determine the type of tumor.

Because synovial sarcoma is an aggressive type of cancer and doesn’t always have initial symptoms, it means it is more likely to have spread to other parts of the body.

Treatment involves surgically removing the tumor. Radiation therapy may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to attack any remaining cells. If synovial sarcoma cannot be completely removed surgically or has spread, chemotherapy likely will be needed to attack the cancer.

Synovial sarcoma has the best chance of being cured when it’s treated by pediatric cancer specialists. Young adults may benefit from treatment at a children’s hospital instead of an adult-service hospital because of the care team’s expertise in childhood diseases.

The Norton Children’s Difference

Norton Children’s Hospital’s cancer care program is one of the oldest oncology programs in the U.S. that has been continuously accredited by the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer. Backed by nearly 60 years of pediatric expertise, we have a proven cancer care team of more than 200 leading cancer specialists, including oncologists, surgeons, nurses, social workers, chaplains, behaviorists, therapists and pharmacists. This skilled, multidisciplinary team is entirely focused on the needs of your child and family.

In addition, we are home to:

  • Kentucky’s leading multidisciplinary pediatric brain tumor program
  • Kentucky’s only pediatric apheresis and pediatric photopheresis programs
  • An immunotherapy program
  • One of the country’s largest sickle cell anemia treatment programs
  • Kentucky’s leading Adolescent and Young Adult Program and Transition Clinic
  • Kentucky’s only CAR-T cell therapy treatment for pediatric patients
  • Life after cancer survivorship program
  • Pediatric bleeding and clotting program (hemostasis and thrombosis)

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