Soft tissue sarcomas are group of cancers that typically develop in the soft tissues surrounding, connecting or supporting the body’s structures and organs. These tissues includes muscles, joints, tendons, fat, blood vessels, nerves and tissues.
Some soft-tissue tumors, such as lipomas and hemangiomas, are benign (not cancer). Others are malignant (cancer) and are called soft tissue sarcomas. There are more than 30 types of sarcoma, making each extremely rare. Sarcomas are classified into groups that have similar types of cancer cells and symptoms. They usually are named for the type of tissue where they start. Sarcomas within a classification often are treated the same way.
The main types of soft-tissue sarcoma begin in:
Peripheral nerve tissue
Blood and lymph vessels
Sarcomas of uncertain tissue type: In this type of sarcoma, doctors are not able to determine the exact type of tissue where the cancer began.
Soft Tissue Sarcoma Risk Factors
Anything that increases your chance of getting cancer is a risk factor. For sarcoma, risk factors include:
Inherited genetic conditions such as:
Von Recklinghausen disease
Other risk factors include:
Damage or removal of lymph nodes during previous cancer treatments.
Exposure to vinyl chloride, a chemical used in making plastics.
Previous radiation treatment for another cancer.
Not everyone with risk factors gets sarcoma. However, if you have risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your health care provider.
What are the symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma?
Signs of sarcoma vary from person to person. Many times sarcoma does not have symptoms in the early stages. Only about half of soft-tissue sarcomas are found in the early stages before they spread.
The location of the sarcoma makes a difference in the symptoms. For instance if they start:
On the arms or legs, you may notice a lump that grows over a period of weeks to months. It may hurt, but it usually doesn’t.
In the retroperitoneum (the back wall inside the abdomen), they may cause problems that have symptoms, such as pain. Tumors may cause blockage or bleeding of the stomach or bowels. They may grow large enough for the tumor to be felt in the abdomen.
If you have any of the following problems, talk to your doctor:
A new lump or a lump that is growing anywhere on your body
Abdominal pain that is getting worse
Blood in your stool or vomit
Black, tarry stools (this may mean there is internal bleeding)
These symptoms do not always mean you have sarcoma. However, it is important to discuss any symptoms with your doctor, since they may also signal other health problems.