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A soft tissue sarcoma is a growth of abnormal cells in the body's soft tissues. These tissues include the muscles, lymph and blood vessels, nerves, and fat. It can also include cartilage and other connective tissue. When cancer cells are found in the tissue, the tumour is called malignant.
Sarcoma is another name for a malignant soft tissue tumour. Sarcomas can spread to other parts of the body, like the lungs.
Some common types of soft tissue sarcomas include:
These tumours are more common in older adults. They often appear in the arms or legs but can be found anywhere in the body.
This cancer forms in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It's usually in the stomach or small intestine.
This type of soft tissue tumour is made up of fat cells. It can be found anywhere in the body.
These tumours are often found in the muscles in the belly and in the uterus, the stomach, and the small intestine.
Other types of soft tissue tumours may appear on the skin, nerves, belly, and limbs. Examples include Ewing, Kaposi, and epithelioid sarcomas.
You may feel a swelling or lump near the tumour. Or you may feel pain or have trouble breathing if the tumour grows large enough to press against nerves or organs inside your body.
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and past health and will examine you. If your doctor can feel a lump or mass in the soft tissue, or if you have other symptoms, you will get some tests. The tests can find out if it's cancer. They can also help your doctor figure out the best treatment for the tumour.
Your doctor may also find a tumour when taking X-rays or other images for another problem.
The doctor may talk to you about what "stage" your cancer is. The stage refers to how large the tumour is and how far it has spread. It also includes the tumour grade, which describes what the cancer cells look like and how likely they are to grow and spread.
These can help the doctor find out what type of treatment you may need. And they may help to find a clinical trial that has treatments for your type of cancer.
Treatment for a soft tissue sarcoma is based on the stage, type, and location of the cancer and other things, such as your overall health. The main treatments include:
You'll probably have surgery to remove the cancer.
This uses high-dose X-rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumours. It may be used before, during, or after surgery.
These medicines kill fast-growing cells, including cancer cells and some normal cells.
In some cases, other treatments may be used, such as:
These medicines attack only cancer cells, not normal cells. They help keep cancer from growing or spreading.
Sometimes a clinical trial may be a good choice.
Your doctor will talk with you about your options and then make a treatment plan.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Adaptation Date: 3/2/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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