Soft tissue sarcoma, things to know

Soft tissue sarcoma is rare cancer type that starts in the soft tissues of the body. Soft tissues are tissues that support or connect other organs or body parts. These are muscles, nerves, fat, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, deep skin tissues, and synovial tissues (joint lining). Most often, soft tissue sarcomas develop in the limbs. But it can begin and spread anywhere in the body.

Types of Soft Tissue Sarcomas
There are a number of soft tissue sarcoma types. Some are common, others are rare. Some soft tissue sarcomas mainly affect adults; while others can develop in people of all age groups.

Soft tissue sarcomas are categorized as per their start location. Some examples are
â Fat tissue tumors like liposarcoma
â Fibrous tissue tumors such as fibroblastic sarcoma
â Muscle cell tumors like leiomyosarcoma
â Tumors in the lymph or blood vessels like lymphangiosarcomas and angiosarcoma
â Cancer in the tendons such as clear cell sarcoma
â Cancer around the nerve cells such as neurogenic sarcoma
â Joint lining tissue cancer like synovial sarcoma
â Skin cell tumors like dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans
â In the abdomen tissue like desmoplastic small round cell tumor
â In the legs such as alveolar soft-part sarcoma
Causes and Risk Factors
Cancer develops due to cell mutations. However, the exact cause of soft tissue sarcoma is not known.

Some risk factors are:
â Hereditary factors can increase a person’s risks of developing soft tissue sarcoma. Genetic conditions like neurofibromatosis, retinoblastoma and Li Fraumeni syndrome are some examples that can cause soft tissue sarcoma.
â Exposure to radiation from other cancer treatment or from the environment can cause soft tissue sarcoma.
â Exposure to chemicals like dioxin, arsenic and chlorophenols also pose a threat of developing soft tissue sarcoma.

In the early stages, there are no noticeable symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma. Overtime, a person with soft tissue sarcoma can experience the following main symptoms
â Swelling or lump in the affected area
â Soreness or pain in the affected area

In the later stages, other symptoms may depend on the type of sarcoma. Some of these can be
â Breathlessness, cough (lungs)
â Constipation, pain (stomach)
â Bleeding (womb)

As the symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma are not present or noticeable in the early stages, it is wise to see a doctor if there is one or more lumps in the body that has increased in size or is tender to touch.

Diagnosis: The doctor may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose soft tissue sarcoma.
â Physical examination
â Imaging tests like computerized tomography (CT), X-rays, positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
â Biopsy

Treatment: Depending on the type and size of the soft tissue sarcoma, the treatment options for the cancer may be the following
â Surgery
â Chemotherapy
â Radiation therapy
â Targeted drug (biological) treatments

With proper knowledge about their specific soft tissue sarcoma type, patients can make informed choice about their treatment options.