Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment
General Information About Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma
Key Points for this Section
Adult soft tissue sarcoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in
the soft tissues of the body.
The soft tissues of the body include the muscles, tendons (bands of fiber that connect muscles to bones), fat, blood vessels, lymph vessels, nerves, and tissues around joints. Adult soft tissue sarcomas can form almost anywhere in the body, but are most common in the legs, abdomen, arms, and trunk.
There are many types of soft tissue sarcoma. The cells of each type of sarcoma look different under a microscope, based on the type of soft tissue in which the cancer began.
See the following PDQ summaries for more information on soft tissue sarcomas:
Having certain inherited disorders can increase the risk of developing adult soft tissue sarcoma.
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will
get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will
not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should
discuss this with their doctor. Risk factors for soft tissue sarcoma include the following inherited disorders:
Other risk factors for soft tissue sarcoma include past treatment with radiation therapy during childhood or for the following types of cancer:
Possible signs of adult soft tissue sarcoma include a lump or swelling in soft tissue of the body.
A sarcoma may appear as a painless lump under the skin, often on an arm or a leg. Sarcomas that begin in the abdomen may not cause symptoms until they become very large. As the sarcoma grows larger and presses on nearby organs, nerves, muscles, or blood vessels, symptoms may include:
Other conditions may cause the same symptoms that soft tissue sarcomas do. A doctor should be consulted if any of these problems occur.
Adult soft tissue sarcoma is diagnosed with a biopsy.
If a soft tissue sarcoma is suspected, a biopsy will be done. The type of biopsy that is done will be based on the size and location of the tumor. There are two types of biopsy that may be used:
Samples will be taken from the primary tumor, lymph nodes, and other suspicious areas. A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells and to
find out the grade of the tumor. The grade of a tumor depends on how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the cells are dividing. High-grade tumors usually grow and spread more quickly than low-grade tumors. Because soft tissue sarcoma can be hard to diagnose, patients should ask to have biopsy samples checked by a pathologist who has experience in diagnosing soft tissue sarcoma.
The following tests may be done on the tissue that was removed:
- Immunohistochemistry study: A laboratory test in which a substance such as an antibody, dye, or radioisotope is added to a sample of cancer cells to test for certain antigens. This type of study is used to tell the difference between different types of cancer.
- Light and electron microscopy: A laboratory test in which cells in a sample of tissue are viewed under regular and high-powered microscopes to look for certain changes in the cells.
- Cytogenetic analysis: A laboratory test in which cells in a sample of tissue are viewed under a microscope to look for certain changes in the chromosomes.
- FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization): A laboratory test used to look at genes or chromosomes in cells and tissues. Pieces of DNA that contain a fluorescent dye are made in the laboratory and added to cells or tissues on a glass slide. When these pieces of DNA attach to certain genes or areas of chromosomes on the slide, they light up when viewed under a microscope with a special light.
- Flow cytometry: A laboratory test that measures the number of cells in a sample, the percentage of live cells in a sample, and certain characteristics of cells, such as size, shape, and the presence of tumor markers on the cell surface. The cells are stained with a light-sensitive dye, placed in a fluid, and passed in a stream before a laser or other type of light. The measurements are based on how the light-sensitive dye reacts to the light.
Certain factors affect treatment options and prognosis (chance of recovery).
The treatment options and prognosis (chance of recovery) depend on the following:
- The type of soft tissue sarcoma.
- The size, grade, and stage of the tumor.
- Where the tumor is in the body.
- Whether the entire tumor is removed by surgery.
- The patient's age and general health.
- Whether the cancer has recurred (come back).