Soft Tissue Sarcoma Cancer Patient

Soft tissue sarcoma

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on July 20, 2022.

Soft tissue sarcomas may develop in any tissue that connects, supports or surrounds other structures and organs in the body. Soft tissue sarcomas may develop in the muscles, fascia (the tough membrane surrounding muscles), tendons, fat, blood vessels, nerves and synovial tissues (connective tissue that makes up the membranes surrounding joints).

Soft tissue sarcomas are rare in adults and account for less than 1 percent of all new cases of cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 13,400 new cases of soft tissue sarcoma will be diagnosed in 2024 (7,700 cases in men and 5,890 cases in women). Sarcomas may be found almost anywhere in the soft tissues of the body.

According to the National Cancer Institute, about 50 percent of soft tissue sarcoma cases occur in the arms and legs, 40 percent occur in the back and chest, and 10 percent occur in the head and neck.

No soft tissue sarcoma patient is the same. Get personalized treatment.

At City of Hope, our cancer experts are trained and experienced in diagnosing and treating all stages of soft tissue sarcoma. After undergoing a biopsy, MRI, ultrasound or other diagnostic procedures to evaluate the disease, you will sit with a multidisciplinary team of doctors and clinicians who will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your needs and specific diagnosis. That plan will also include a range of supportive care therapies designed to help you manage the side effects of the disease and its treatment to support your quality of life.

This overview will cover the basic facts about soft tissue sarcoma, including:

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma and want to schedule an appointment for diagnostic testing, or if you’re interested in a second opinion on your soft tissue sarcoma diagnosis and treatment plan, call us or chat online with a member of our team.

What causes soft tissue sarcoma?

Who gets soft tissue sarcoma?

While soft tissue sarcoma can occur in people of any age, it’s most commonly found in adults over the age of 50.

Soft tissue sarcoma types

There are 50 different types of soft tissue sarcoma. Soft tissue tumors are generally named for the type of connective tissue in which they form. However, as researchers have learned more about this rare cancer, many names have changed over time. This type of cancer is typically described as low grade, mid grade or high grade, depending on the size of the tumor.

Some common types of soft tissue sarcoma include:

  • Angiosarcoma, forming in blood and lymph vessels
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma, commonly found in the trunk or limbs and forming in the tissue under the skin
  • Epithelioid sarcoma, appearing as small nodules typically found in the hands or feet of young adults
  • Ewing sarcoma, considered a type of bone sarcoma, though a third are categorized as extraosseous Ewing tumors, developing in the soft tissues outside of the bone
  • Fibrosarcoma, forming in fibrocytes (cells that make up the fibrous tissue that envelops muscles, tendons and ligaments)
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs), typically forming in the walls of the digestive system

Learn more about types of soft tissue sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcoma symptoms

Diagnosing soft tissue sarcoma

To distinguish soft tissue sarcoma from healthy tissue, cancer center pathologists use the following tools and tests:

Learn more about diagnostic procedures for soft tissue sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcoma treatments

Our approach to helping you maintain your quality of life

Your collaborative team of cancer experts and clinicians will attack the disease with conventional treatments while using evidence-informed therapies to help you manage cancer- and treatment-related side effects. This integrative approach to cancer care helps soft tissue sarcoma patients better tolerate side effects so they can reduce treatment delays and get the most out of life.

Your team understands that because soft tissue tumors can form anywhere in the body, symptoms are often related to the location of the tumor. For example, because about half of soft tissue sarcomas develop in the arms and legs, your team may include an oncology rehabilitation therapist to help you manage lymphedema if it occurs. Your care team works with you to manage symptoms and side effects as they arise—all working under one roof and collaborating in real time.

Our approach to cancer treatment puts patients at the center of their care. That’s because we know that treating cancer isn’t just about treating the disease itself. It’s about personalized care that treats the individual holistically.