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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Types of soft tissue sarcoma

Every soft tissue sarcoma patient is different. The cancer experts at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) have extensive experience in properly staging and diagnosing the disease, and developing a treatment plan that's tailored to your specific type of soft tissue sarcoma.

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 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.
  • Kaposi sarcoma: A cancer of the blood vessels or lymph system known for producing purple plaques on the skin. It can spread elsewhere in the body.
  • 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.


Last Revised: 06/28/2018

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