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Carcinoma vs Sarcoma: How Are They Different and How to Prevent Them

Can’t tell carcinoma vs sarcoma apart? Here are their differences and how to prevent them.

A female doctor examining a patient’s skin to detect signs of cancer

Have you ever wondered about the differences between carcinoma vs sarcoma? Both are malignant tumours with similar-sounding names, but that’s where the similarities end. In fact, many don’t understand that the differences between carcinoma and sarcoma revolves around where it develops.

Both types can affect anyone. If you wish to know more about their characteristics, risk factors, and steps to minimise your risk of cancer, keep reading this article. 

Types of Cancer: Carcinoma vs Sarcoma

Three common types of skin cancers are squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Three common types of skin cancers are squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Carcinomas arise from the cells that line the body’s internal organs. These are also called epithelial cells. Sarcomas grow from connective tissue cells such as fat, blood vessels, muscles, bones, deep skin tissue, and cartilage. 

Carcinomas are classified into various types depending on the cells from which they develop. These are: 

  • Adenocarcinoma: Develops in the cells that secrete fluids or mucus, such as the colon, prostate, breasts, and lungs 
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Develops in the cells that lie below the skin’s surface 
  • Basal cell carcinoma: Develops in the skin’s basal layer 
  • Transitional cell carcinoma: Develops in the cells that line the bladder, ureters, and kidneys 

Meanwhile, sarcomas can develop in mesenchymal cells — adult stem cells that can morph into other types of cells — or cells that make up your soft tissues and bones.

There are a few types of sarcoma, namely: 

  • Osteosarcoma: Develops in the cells that form bones, cartilage, or bone marrow 
  • Soft-tissue sarcoma: Develops soft tissues 
  • Liposarcoma: Develops in fat cells 
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma or leiomyosarcoma: Develops in muscle cells 
  • Peripheral nerve sheath tumours: Develops in the nerves 
  • Fibrosarcoma: Develops in fibrous tissue 
  • Angiosarcoma: Develops in blood or lymph vessels 
  • Epithelioid sarcoma: Develops in deep skin tissues 
type of sarcoma
Sarcomas is a broad group of cancers that begin in the bones and in the soft tissues.

Causes of Cancer, According to Traditional Chinese Medicine

Asian woman smoking near a young girl
Smoking is one of the most common causes of cancer.

Cancer, carcinoma in particular, is recorded in the ancient text of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Real Health Medical’s Chief Physician Chu I Ta explains, “The closest term for sarcoma in Western medicine is shi liu (石瘤) or ‘rock tumour’. The Orthodox Manual of External Diseases describes it as pain in the bone due to tumour growth. It bulges like a hard rock, is immobile and dark purplish.” 

Most cancers have a genetic predisposition. However, an unhealthy lifestyle and environmental agents are also responsible for the development of certain types of the disease. Physician Chu explains that according to TCM principles, several imbalances are responsible for cancer: 

Kidney Deficiency 

The Kidneys govern the bones, produces marrow, and is the foundational basis of life (先天之本). Kidney Qi (vital life force) Deficiency will lead to poor production of marrow, allowing toxicity to invade the body, resulting in cancer growth. Hence, it’s important to improve Kidney jing (essence) and qi

Weak Spleen and Stomach 

The Spleen controls the four limbs and governs transportation and transformation of the food as a postnatal basis of life (后天之本). The Spleen is the source of blood and qi. Any abnormalities in the Spleen and Stomach’s functioning can result in poor blood and qi circulation to the limbs and muscles.

Long-term Spleen Deficiency may lead to weak muscle and bone growth, enabling toxic cancer cells to invade and grow in the body tissues. To treat cancers that relate to these imbalances, you need to tonify Spleen and Stomach qi

Invasion of toxicity 

Prolonged exposure to excess Cold, Heat, and phlegm toxicity may lead to the growth of toxic cancer cells in the soft tissues. These include the muscles, joints, blood vessels, and bones. The obstruction of blood and qi circulation as a result of tumour growth in the connective tissues will result in weaker muscles and bones. Clearing Heat toxicity and dredging the meridians can help treat this cancer.

Physician Chu says, “The principles of cancer treatment are to strengthen the body’s immunity and improve its functions. This will reduce the recurrence of any malignant tumours. The holistic approach of TCM helps the body to regenerate and recover in a balanced and moderate way.”

Woman holding an apple in her left hand as she lifts her right palm up to decline a plate of doughnuts on a wooden table
Avoiding sugary foods is beneficial for maintaining proper Spleen and Stomach functions.

Can You Prevent Cancer? 

Carcinoma or sarcoma isn’t treatable if it develops from defective genes. Still, you can change how you live to minimise the impact of the environment on your health. Here are some tips for reducing the risk of cancer. 

Say no to tobacco and sugar  

Smoking has been linked to lung, throat, mouth, larynx, pancreas, bladder, kidney, and cervical cancer. The risk of lung cancer is high for passive smokers who merely inhale cigarette fumes. 

There’s also enough TCM evidence to show that sugar is one of the leading causes of cancer. Consuming excess sugar weakens the Spleen and Stomach, causes the accumulation of phlegm and Dampness in the body, and provokes cancer growth. 

Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly 

Balanced food consumption and physical activity go a long way in maintaining a healthy immune system. Western medicine believes that cancer develops when the immune system is unable to keep tabs on the multiplication of mutated cells.

TCM recognises the importance of immunity against cancer, too. A healthy immune system is our first defence against the disease’s onset. Physician Chu emphasises that sufficient sleep and rest are essential to a healthy immune system.

Stay away from known risk factors  

We are often exposed to known risk factors of cancer. For instance, the sun’s ultraviolet rays, can cause skin cancer. It’s important to take adequate precautions like applying sunscreen lotion and wearing protective clothing. Get vaccinated against hepatitis B and human papilloma virus, both of which can increase a person’s risk of liver and cervical cancer.

Alleviating Treatment Side Effects with Herbal Remedies 

TCM remedies can also help support cancer treatment and relieve the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It can also help with the healing of the body after cancer surgery. A TCM practitioner can recommend the right formula depending on your body constitution and syndrome. 

Physician Chu suggests the following herbs based on the different syndromes:  

  • Improves Kidneys and Spleen: Ginseng (ren shen, 人参), white Atractylodes rhizome (bai zhu, 白术), Poria (fu ling, 茯苓), Semen corni (shan zhu yu, 山茱萸), Semen psoraleae (bu gu zhi, 补骨脂), Cornua cervi degelatinatum (lujiao shuang, 鹿角霜), notoginseng (tian qi, 田七), and Loranthus parasiticus (shang ji sheng, 桑寄生).
  • Removes Stasis and tumours: Turtle shell (bie jia, 鳖甲), Curcuma zedoary (ezhu, 莪术), frankincense (ru xiang, 乳香), and Five leaf akebia fruit (ba yue zha, 八月札).
  • Dredges collaterals and improve circulation: Cassia twig (gui zhi, 桂枝), Radix clematidis (wei ling xian, 威灵仙), Radix angelicae tuhuo (du huo, 独活), and Aristolochiae lignum (mu tong, 木通).
  • Clears Heat and cancer toxicity: Sculellaria barbata (ban zhi lian, 半枝莲), Herba hedyotis (baihua she she cao, 白花蛇舌草), Hairyvein agrimony (xian he cao, 仙鹤草), and Gynostemma pentaphylla (jiao gu lan, 绞股蓝).

The distinction between carcinoma vs sarcoma doesn’t stop there. Of course, each cancer type comes with different behaviours. All in all, the general treatment involves chemotherapy or radiation and surgery. You have the option to seek complementary therapies like TCM, which can aid in your recovery. If you notice anything amiss, schedule a medical check-up as soon as possible.


  1. Cancer Research Malaysia, Cancers. [online] [Accessed on 11 July 2022]
  2. Mayo Clinic. Cancer prevention: 7 tips to reduce your risk. [online] [Accessed on 11 July 2022]
  3. Cleveland Clinic, 2018, What’s the Difference Between a Sarcoma and Carcinoma? 2018. [online] [Accessed on 11 July 2022]

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