Soft Tissue Sarcoma Information
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A sarcoma is a type of cancer that develops from the supportive tissues in the body. There are two main types of sarcomas: soft tissue sarcomas and bone sarcomas (also known bone cancer.)
Soft tissue sarcomas may develop in any tissue that connects, supports or surrounds other structures and organs in the body. Some examples of where soft tissues sarcomas can develop are muscles, fascia (the tough membrane that surrounds muscles), tendons, fat, blood vessels, nerves and synovial tissues (connective tissue that makes up the membranes surrounding joints).
Sarcomas can be found almost anywhere in the body. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 43 percent of soft tissue sarcoma cases occur in the extremities (arms and legs), 34 percent form in or around the internal organs, 10 percent occur in the trunk (back and chest) and 13 percent occur in other locations.
Soft tissue sarcomas are rare in adults, accounting for only about 1 percent of all new cases of cancer.
The American Cancer Society reports that about 11,280 new cases of soft tissue sarcoma will be diagnosed in 2012 (6,110 cases in males and 5,170 cases in females).
When diagnosed early, soft tissue sarcoma patients have a very high survival rate. The five-year survival rate for patients with an early stage sarcoma that has not metastasized (spread) is about 90 percent.
Types of Soft Tissue Sarcomas
There are 50 different types of soft tissue sarcomas, which can develop in many different locations and tissues within the body. Because of this great variability among soft tissue sarcomas, recommended treatment options will vary, depending upon the stage, grade, type and location of the tumor. Thus, developing an individualized treatment plan with your Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) sarcoma care team is extremely important.
The various types of soft tissue sarcomas are generally named for the type of connective tissue in which they form. However, as researchers have learned more about these rare tumors, many of these names have changed over time. Following are the most common soft tissue sarcoma types, as well as their tissues of origin:
- Angiosarcoma – Forms in blood and lymph vessels.
- Dermatofibrosarcoma – Forms in the tissue under the skin, commonly found in the trunk or limbs.
- Epithelioid Sarcoma – Typically found in the hands or feet of young adults, appearing as small nodules.
- Ewing’s Sarcoma – Though considered a type of bone sarcoma, one-third of all Ewing’s tumors develop in the soft tissues, and are categorized as extraosseous (outside of the bone) Ewing’s tumors.
- Fibrosarcoma – Starts in the fibrocytes, which are the cells that make up the fibrous tissue that envelopes muscles, tendons and ligaments. This type of soft tissue sarcoma is commonly found in the arms, legs or trunk, but can also be found deeper inside of the body.
- Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GISTs) – These tumors develop within the walls of the digestive system, most commonly in the stomach. However, rare cases of GISTs arising from outside of the digestive tract can also occur.
- Leiomyosarcoma – Starts in the involuntary smooth muscles, such as those found in the stomach, intestine and blood vessels.
- Liposarcoma – Forms in fatty tissue.
- Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma – Forms in the fibrous tissue, most commonly in the legs, but may also occur in the abdomen. Also more recently known as pleomorphic undifferentiated sarcoma.
- Neurofibrosarcoma – Also known as malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, this type of soft tissue sarcoma develops in peripheral nerves.
- Rhabdomyosarcoma – Starts in the skeletal muscle. Alveolar rhabdomyosarcomas often occur in the limbs of teenagers and young adults, while pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma affects middle-age adults.
- Synovial Sarcoma – Also called synovial cell sarcomas, these tumors most commonly arise in the areas around large joints.
Treatment for Soft Tissue Sarcoma
For most soft tissue sarcoma types, surgery is the primary treatment. In some cases, surgery is the only treatment necessary. However, larger or high grade tumors may also require chemotherapy and radiation therapy, either before (neoadjuvant) or after (adjuvant) surgery, as a supplement.
In many cases, radiation therapy, with or without chemotherapy, may be used as the first treatment for large soft tissue sarcomas, or for sarcomas that involve critical structures like nerves or large blood vessels. Neoadjuvant therapy is commonly used to shrink the tumor so that the surgeon has a better chance of removing the entire tumor, and with less radical surgery. Giving neoadjuvant therapy before surgery may allow patients with large extremity sarcoma tumors to avoid amputation.
It is rare for surgery to not be a part of your soft tissue sarcoma treatment plan, but if the tumor is not resectable (removable by surgery), or if you are not healthy enough to go through surgery, then sometimes radiation and chemotherapy will be used alone.
Like many forms of cancer, sarcomas can spread (metastasize) to other sites in the body. The main location that a soft tissue sarcoma will metastasize to is the lungs, with the liver being the second most common location.
We Are Here to Help
At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) we have experience treating all types of soft tissue sarcomas. For more soft tissue sarcoma information, or to learn about the treatments available at CTCA, call us today at 1-800-615-3055 or Chat Now with one of our experienced Oncology Information Specialists.
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