What is soft tissue sarcoma?

April 01, 2021

What is a sarcoma? 

Sarcomas are very rare cancers that are usually found on the arms, legs and trunks. They can however affect any part of the body, which contains connective tissue including the abdomen, pelvis and gynaecological system. They form 1% of all new diagnosed cancers in the UK and thus recognition of the symptoms are important to ensure prompt referral. It can present in both adults and children. There are almost 5300 new cases diagnosed per year in the UK.

What are the symptoms of soft tissue cancer?

Features to watch out for in soft tissue sarcomas are any unexplained lump, which is increasing size, larger than 5cm (a Golf Ball), painful and deep-seated, but not always. Sometimes lumps which are small in size can present as an aggressive lesion. There may be evidence of skin changes, discolouration, fungating (coming through the skin) lesions, and a history of previous surgery or radiotherapy. 

What are the causes of sarcoma?

The aetiology is predominantly unknown but contributing causes including genetic mutations, family history, previous radiotherapy, or chemical exposure. Family history is extremely important in patients with a history of Neurofibromatosis as this can present as malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours. More research needs to be performed in order to understand the causes of Sarcoma with projects like the national 100,000 Genome Project.

How do you diagnose soft tissue sarcomas?

With more than 100 subtypes, recognition of the symptoms is crucial to ensure prompt management. Assessment is best done by a specialised Sarcoma surgeon with a thorough history and examination. All lumps should have radiological investigations (Ultrasound or MRI scan) and a biopsy may be taken for review by a sarcoma histopathologist. The biopsy will assist in the diagnosis of the lump. All cases are reviewed by a multidisciplinary team (MDT).

What treatments are available for soft tissue cancer?

Treatment is determined following a MDT discussion of the case and staging of the caner. If surgery is decided as the best first approach then a wide local excision is the mainstay of surgical treatment. This is in order to resect the whole soft tissue tumour along with normal tissue to ensure it is completely excised. Other treatments include pre and post-operative radiotherapy or chemotherapy which is decided with the Oncologists.

Will I be completely cured of the sarcoma?

A treatment plan is made to ensure treatment of the sarcoma is as complete as possible. Most Sarcomas are treatable with good results and prognosis with early presentation and diagnosis. After the sarcoma is treated usually by surgery, patients are kept under clinical surveillance for 10 years to monitor for any recurrence or other problems.

If you a have a new lump that you are concerned about please seek medical advice from your doctor or contact us to arrange an appointment at our clinic. 

rapid access lumps diagnostic clinic is available for consultation and same day diagnostics by arrangement.  Please call 0161 772 0961 or book here.

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