A soft tissue sarcoma usually produces no signs and symptoms in its early stages. As the tumor grows, it may cause:

  • A noticeable lump or swelling
  • Pain, if it presses on nerves or muscles
  • A blockage in the stomach or intestines or gastrointestinal bleeding if the tumor is located in the abdomen or digestive tract

Soft tissue sarcomas can occur anywhere in your body, but the most common types of soft tissue sarcomas are gastrointestinal stromal tumors and soft tissue sarcomas that affect the extremities. About 60 percent of soft tissue sarcomas occur in the arms, legs, buttocks, hands or feet. Another 20 percent occur in the chest and abdomen. About 10 percent are found in the head and neck.

Soft tissue sarcomas go by a variety of names, depending on the tissue in which they originate. Examples of some sarcomas and their locations include:

Rhabdomyosarcoma More common in children, this sarcoma occurs in the skeletal muscles.
Leiomyosarcoma Occurs in the smooth muscles — muscles not under voluntary control. Found most commonly in the uterus, gastrointestinal tract or lining of blood vessels.
Hemangiosarcoma Affects blood vessels, especially in areas that have previously received radiation treatment.
Kaposi's sarcoma A malignancy that occurs in blood vessel walls. Often affects people with immune deficiencies, such as HIV/AIDS.
Lymphangiosarcoma Affects the lymph vessels and is sometimes seen in a limb with chronic swelling (lymphedema). This can be from an area of prior radiation therapy or certain rare chronic infections.
Synovial sarcoma Tissue around joints such as knees and ankles are affected. Typically occurs in children and young adults.
Neurofibrosarcoma Occurs in the peripheral nerves.
Liposarcoma Fatty tissue, often in your legs and trunk, is affected.
Fibrosarcoma Fibrous tissue in your arms, legs or trunk may be affected.
Malignant fibrous histiocytoma A fibrous tissue tumor more likely to occur in the legs.

Grows in the tissue beneath your skin, and often develops in your trunk or limbs.

When to see a doctor

Talk to your doctor if you discover a lump that persists or grows in size. In addition, see your doctor right away if the lump is painful.

Sep. 13, 2011

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