Soft tissue sarcoma is a disease in which cancer cells are found in soft tissue in the body. Soft tissue includes muscles, tendons, connective tissues, fat, blood vessels, nerves, and synovial (joint) tissues. There are many types of soft tissue sarcoma. The term soft tissue is used to distinguish these sarcomas from bone sarcomas.
The types of tumor that can develop from different soft tissues include:
Soft tissue sarcomas are relatively uncommon. Although they may be found in children, soft tissue sarcomas are more common in adults.
They can develop in any part of the body. Half of them develop in the arms or legs. The rest arise in the trunk, head and neck area, internal organs, or the retroperitoneum (the back of the abdominal cavity).
Risk factors include the following:
Inherited diseases such as:
In the early stages, a sarcoma is small and does not produce symptoms. As the tumor grows, it may push aside normal body structures, causing symptoms.
The most common symptom of a sarcoma is a lump or swelling that may or may not be painful. Symptoms vary, depending on the part of the body that is affected. For example, tumors found in the following areas of the body may develop these symptoms:
The doctor may decide to order an X-ray or other tests if a tumor is suspected. However, the only way to confirm the diagnosis is with a biopsy. If a sarcoma is found, staging tests are performed to find out if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what extent.
Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. Conventional treatments may include:
Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy) – the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. When a sarcoma is aggressive looking, and the surgeon has completed his or her task of removing as much of it as possible, adding radiation will significantly reduce the chances of the cancer coming back. Radiation may be:
A report by a 16-member committee of the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine found soft-tissue sarcoma associated with exposure to herbicides. Some studies have shown significant increases in soft tissue sarcoma with phenoxy herbicides.
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