Soft-tissue Sarcoma

Soft tissues connect, support, and surround body parts. Muscles, tendons, ligaments, fat, blood vessels and nerves are all considered soft-tissue structures. Soft-tissue sarcomas (cancers) can be found anywhere in the body, but especially the extremities (arms and legs) and the trunk (chest and abdomen). They can occur at any age, including adulthood.

The most common soft-tissue sarcoma in children is known as Rhabdomyosarcoma, found in the tissues of striated, or movement-oriented, muscles.

Soft-tissue sarcomas fall within a spectrum of cancers:

  • Fibrous tissue tumors (connective tissues such as tendons)
  • Fibrohistiocytic tumors (deep tissue or bone)
  • Fat tissue tumors
  • Smooth muscle tumors
  • Blood and lymph vessel tumors
  • Peripheral nervous system tumors

There are also tumors with multiple tissue types and tumors of unknown tissue origin.

Certain diseases and disorders increase the risks of developing childhood soft-tissue sarcomas:

  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Previous radiation treatment

In addition to a physical exam and X-rays, a physician may use Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or a biopsy to help identify the type of sarcoma. Biopsies are done several ways and are taken from the primary tumor, lymph nodes and/or any surrounding area affected.

Many factors affect recovery rate and treatment options:

  • Size of tumor
    The location and size of the tumor and how deeply into the soft-tissue it is found will have an effect on recovery.
  • Stage of tumor
    As with many cancers, Stage I and II tumors are more easily cured. The earlier the tumor is detected, the better chance for removal and treatment.
  • Type of tumor
    Certain types of sarcomas have better recovery rates.
  • Age of patient
    While many soft-tissue sarcomas can occur in adulthood, the outcome is usually more favorable when discovered and treated in childhood.