Soft tissue sarcomas are rare cancers that begin in the body's soft tissues (such as muscles, fat, nerves, tendons and blood vessels). They occur in adults and children.
Some soft tissue sarcomas have known causes — including genetic disorders and exposure to toxins — but most do not.
Soft Tissue Sarcoma Symptoms
The first symptom of a soft tissue sarcoma is often a painless lump under the skin. It's most likely to appear on the arm, leg or belly, but can appear anywhere.
Often the lump is the only symptom. But some people also experience the following:
- Pain around the lump
- Trouble breathing, especially if the lump is in your neck
- Stomach pain that doesn't go away or gets worse
- Black, sticky or bloody stool
If you notice a worrisome lump — with or without other symptoms — see a primary care provider right away.
Types of Soft Tissue Sarcoma
There are about 50 types of soft tissue sarcoma. Experts at Rush are equipped to treat any of them, including the following:
- Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans
- Epithelioid sarcoma
- Malignant fibrous histiocytoma
- Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor
- Synovial sarcoma
- Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma
Whether you have one of these sarcomas or another one, Rush offers a full range of treatments.
Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment at Rush
At Rush, you'll have access to a team of specialists who'll work with you to create a treatment plan. Your team may include the following, among others:
- Medical oncologists
- Orthopedic surgeons
- Plastic and reconstructive surgeons
- Radiation oncologists
- Physiatrists (physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors)
- Pediatric oncologists (for patients under 18)
Your treatment plan will be based on your (or your child's) age, and the type, location and stage of the sarcoma. It will include one or more of the following:
For sarcomas caught in their early stages, expert surgeons at Rush can often perform surgery to remove the tumor. Surgeons at Rush are experts in limb preservation techniques, which can prevent amputation even when sarcomas threaten the limb.
If sarcoma has spread to the lungs, thoracic surgeons can sometimes perform surgery to remove it there.
You may receive radiation therapy in one of the following ways:
- Before surgery to help shrink the tumor and make it easier to remove
- After surgery to kill any cancer cells that surgery couldn't remove
- Instead of surgery (usually in high doses) for tumors that cannot be removed
You may receive one or more of the following:
- Chemotherapy, or cancer-fighting drugs
- Targeted therapy, which combines drugs with other substances to help more precisely target cancer cells
Rush Excellence in Soft Tissue Sarcoma Care
- Nationally recognized excellence: U.S. & News and World Report ranked Rush University Medical Center No. 5 in the nation and best in Illinois for orthopedics, and among the best in the nation for cancer.
- Limb preservation expertise: If a sarcoma affects the limbs, surgeons at Rush perform limb-sparing procedures whenever possible. Surgeons at Rush were among the first in Illinois to do limb-sparing surgery for people with soft tissue sarcomas. They can sometimes save limbs even in cases where other providers have recommended amputation.
- Access to the latest clinical trials: We offer access to virtually all of the latest clinical trials for soft tissue sarcomas. Rush partners with the National Cancer Institute and the Children's Oncology Group to ensure each patient can access the trials most likely to help them.