Spinal sarcomas can develop within the bony vertebrae of the spinal column as bone sarcomas (primary bone cancers such as osteosarcoma, Ewing sarcoma, chondrosarcoma and chordoma) or as soft tissue sarcomas within the soft tissues close to the spine.

For patients with a sarcoma in or around their spine, diagnosis can prove both challenging and traumatic. The rarity of these conditions can lead to significant diagnostic delays and some patients may present with life-threatening spinal cord compression as a result of their tumour and its vulnerable location. Treatment frequently involves complex and life-altering surgery, with limited time to consider the risks and the potential for lasting physical impacts. Surgeries often lead to extended hospital stays and isolation from family and friends, as well as significant changes to appearance, reduced mobility and lengthy rehabilitation. Patients may also face aggressive chemotherapy and / or radiotherapy, in efforts to reduce the high risk of recurrence (the return of disease) observed in spinal sarcoma.

Ensuring the appropriate psychological support is available is central to promoting the wellbeing and quality of life of those with spine sarcoma. However, how patients with spine sarcoma experience their diagnosis, treatment and recovery is not well understood. It is also unclear what impact spine sarcoma can have on patients' daily functioning and what support they would find most beneficial.

An Idea Grant has been awarded to Dr Victoria Williamson at the University of Bath in collaboration with Mr Jeremy Reynolds and Mr Gerard Mawhinney at Oxford University Hospital, NHS Foundation Trust to better understand the needs of these patients and the support they need.

What are the aims of this research project?

The aim of this study is to carry out a qualitative investigation of the lived experiences of patients with spine sarcoma, their experiences of diagnosis and treatment, perceptions of the impact of the illness on daily functioning, and to explore views of treatment and (need for) support.

How could this research benefit primary bone cancer patients?

The care delivered in the aftermath of spinal sarcoma diagnoses is largely focused on physical versus phycological. This project will build on the limited existing research by providing in-depth insight into how and why patients with spine sarcoma may be affected psychologically by their illness, what factors may increase or decrease their distress, whether targeted advice and support would be helpful and what such support should be included in their care.

Sponsor Our Research Into Primary Bone Cancer