Overview

Soft tissue sarcoma is a type of cancer that begins in the soft tissues of your body.

Soft tissues connect, support and surround other body structures. The soft tissues include muscle, fat, blood vessels, nerves, tendons and the lining of your joints.

Many types of soft tissue sarcoma exist. Some types are more likely to affect children, while others affect mostly adults.

Soft tissue sarcoma can occur anywhere in your body, but the most common types occur in the abdomen and in the arms and legs.

Types

Symptoms

A soft tissue sarcoma may not cause any signs and symptoms in its early stages. As the tumor grows, it may cause:

  • A noticeable lump or swelling
  • Pain, if a tumor presses on nerves or muscles

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs and symptoms that worry you.

Causes

In most cases, it's not clear what causes soft tissue sarcoma.

In general, cancer occurs when cells develop errors (mutations) in their DNA. The errors make cells grow and divide out of control. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor that can grow to invade nearby structures and spread to other parts of the body.

The type of cell that develops the genetic mutation determines what type of soft tissue sarcoma you have. Some types of soft tissue sarcoma include:

  • Alveolar soft part sarcoma
  • Angiosarcoma
  • Clear cell sarcoma
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans
  • Desmoplastic small round cell tumor
  • Epithelioid hemangioendothelioma
  • Epithelioid sarcoma
  • Extrarenal rhabdoid tumor
  • Fibrosarcoma
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Infantile fibrosarcoma
  • Inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor
  • Kaposi's sarcoma
  • Leiomyosarcoma
  • Liposarcoma
  • Lymphangiosarcoma
  • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor
  • Myofibrosarcoma
  • Myxofibrosarcoma
  • Neurofibrosarcoma
  • Perivascular epitheliod cell tumor (PEComa)
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Synovial sarcoma
  • Undifferentiated, unclassified soft tissue sarcomas

Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of sarcoma include:

  • Inherited syndromes. A risk of soft tissue sarcoma can be inherited from your parents. Genetic syndromes that increase your risk include hereditary retinoblastoma, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis, neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis and Werner syndrome.
  • Chemical exposure. Being exposed to certain chemicals, such as herbicides, arsenic and dioxin, may increase the risk of soft tissue sarcomas.
  • Radiation exposure. Previous radiation treatment for other cancers can increase the risk of soft tissue sarcomas.

Soft tissue sarcoma care at Mayo Clinic

July 01, 2015
References
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  4. Childhood soft tissue sarcoma treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/child-soft-tissue-sarcoma/Patient. Accessed May 1, 2015.
  5. Taking time: Support for people with cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/takingtime. Accessed May 1, 2015.
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