Soft tissue sarcomas can develop in soft tissues such as muscle, fat, nerves, blood vessels, fibrous tissues, or deep skin tissues. Sarcomas can occur in any part of the body.
There are more than 50 different types of soft tissue sarcomas. Sarcomas are overall not common and some are very rare. Some can be very deadly.
What Are Symptoms of Sarcoma?
Symptoms of sarcomas include:
- A lump that may or may not cause pain
- About half of soft tissue sarcomas start in an arm or leg
- About four in 10 sarcomas start in the abdomen
- Rarely, sarcomas start in the chest, head, or neck
- Lump grows over time (weeks to months)
- If a sarcoma occurs in the back of the abdomen (the retroperitoneum), symptoms may include blockage or bleeding of the stomach or bowels
What Causes Sarcoma?
Sarcomas are thought to be caused by genetic changes (mutations), but the reason for these mutations is unknown.
Risk factors for developing sarcomas include:
- Radiation therapy used to treat other cancers
- Family cancer syndromes
- Gardner syndrome
- Gorlin syndrome
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- Tuberous sclerosis
- Werner syndrome
- Damaged lymph system
- Chemical exposure
- Herbicides (weed killers) containing phenoxyacetic acid at high doses (such as might occur in people who work on farms, though there is no evidence that herbicides or insecticides cause sarcomas in levels encountered by the general public)
- Vinyl chloride (a chemical used in making plastics)
How Is Sarcoma Diagnosed?
In addition to a patient history and physical exam, tests used to diagnose sarcomas include:
What Is the Treatment for Sarcoma?
Treatments for sarcoma cancer can include one or more of the following:
- The goal is to remove the entire tumor along with wide margins, which means at least 1 to 2 cm (less than an inch) of the normal tissue around the tumor is also removed
- Limb-sparing surgery
- Lymph node dissection
- Chemotherapy, radiation, or both may be given before surgery (neoadjuvant treatment) or after surgery (adjuvant treatment)
- Radiation therapy
- External beam radiation
- Most often used to treat sarcomas
- Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is used
- Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT)
- One large dose of radiation given in the operating room after the tumor is removed but before the wound is closed
- Brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy
- Small pellets (or seeds) of radioactive material are placed in or near the cancer
- Proton beam radiation (not widely available)
- Dacarbazine (DTIC)
- Docetaxel (Taxotere)
- Doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
- Eribulin (Halaven)
- Gemcitabine (Gemzar)
- Ifosfamide (Ifex)
- The drug mesna is also given to protect the bladder from the toxic effects of ifosfamide
- Temozolomide (Temodar)
- Trabectedin (Yondelis)
- Vinorelbine (Navelbine)
- MAID (mesna, doxorubicin, ifosfamide, and dacarbazine)
- AIM (doxorubicin, ifosfamide, and mesna)
- Targeted drug therapy
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