Is it just a bruise, or could it be a kind of cancer called soft tissue sarcoma?
Soft tissue sarcoma is a type of cancer that forms from soft tissues—like your muscles, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels—which connect and support other tissues in the body.
Soft tissue sarcoma is not common, but anyone can get it—and it can disguise itself as other not-so-serious health conditions. Knowing the risk factors for soft tissue sarcoma as well as the most common red-flag symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma can help you find it early—and fight it.
Warning Signs of Soft Tissue Sarcoma
If someone notices a lump on their leg or hip, their first thought isn’t usually cancer. “People think that it may be a bruise, or trauma related. Some people think it may be an infection, other people may think it’s a cyst, or fatty growth called a lipoma,” says Richard Bakst, MD, a radiation oncologist at Mount Sinai Hospital.
More than half of soft tissue sarcomas develop in the arm or the leg, and about 20% of sarcomas develop in a region of the abdomen called the retroperitoneum. Soft tissue sarcoma often presents as a mass (it can be as large as golf ball-sized; approximately 5 cm), and more often than not, is painless.
“It’s not that pain alerts them to that part of the body. If [they] notice something either in the mirror or the shower, and they follow that over time and notice that it’s [getting] slightly bigger, that usually prompts a doctor’s visit,” says Dr. Bakst.
If the lump does cause pain, it’s likely because it’s begun to press on nearby organs, like the stomach or colon. “Patients with retroperitoneal sarcomas may have different symptoms, such as bloating, abdominal pain, changes in their bowl patterns, and changes in their urinary patterns,” says Dr. Bakst. “Changes in the body are really important to pay attention to.”
Known Risk Factors for Soft Tissue Sarcoma
Family cancer syndromes are disorders caused by gene defects (often inherited from a parent) that are linked to a high risk of getting certain cancers, including soft tissue sarcomas. Exposure to radiation or certain chemicals, or lymph system conditions, are also possible risk factors for soft tissue sarcoma.
For people who don’t have a strong family history of sarcomas, there are no routine screening tests or exams that are recommended for early detection of soft tissue sarcomas. The best way to detect these cancers is keep an eye out for changes, like unexplained lumps, growths or symptoms, and alert your doctor ASAP if you notice anything unusual.
“If there’s any concern about growth or new things that develop, presenting it to the primary care physician at that time is always wise, so that a diagnosis could be established for whatever the lump to the bump may be … sooner, rather than later,” says Dr. Bakst.
Dr. Bakst is a board-certified radiation oncologist and assistant professor at The Icahn School of Medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital.
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When someone notices something new or
different on their body,
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it's important to observe it for
a period of time, and follow it's changes.
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If there's any concern about growth or
new things that develop,
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presenting it to the primary care
position at that time is always wise.
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So that a diagnosis could be established,
and treatment for whatever the lump or
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the bump may be.
00:00:21,993 --> 00:00:27,387
Initiated sooner rather than later.
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Soft tissue sarcomas are a type of cancer,
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that originate in soft tissues of the
body, but can also originate in the bone.
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Most tend to occur below the waist
in the thigh or the pelvis.
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They could occur in any extremity
like your hands, your arms.
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They could also occur in the head and
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And they could also occur in
a region called the retroperitoneum,
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which is basically in the abdomen,
but sits sort of towards the back.
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Soft tissue sarcomas can
present as a painless mass,
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often the size of a golf ball,
which is approximately five centimeters.
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And more often than not, the patient will
not has pain associated with the mass.
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It's not that pain,
alerts them to that part of the body.
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How did they do notice something
in the mirror, or in the shower?
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And they follow that over time and
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they notice that it's
getting slightly over time.
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And that usually prompts
the doctor's visit.
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Some people may think it may be a bruise,
or trauma related.
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Some people think it may be an infection,
other people may think it's a cyst.
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Or a fatty growth called a lipoma.
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Not often are people thinking that
they have cancer at the sight of
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One class of sarcomas is retroperitoneal
sarcoma, which occurs in the abdomen.
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In general these may not
present with abdominal pain.
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However, depending on the size,
they can start to obstruct nearby organs
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like the stomach or the colon, and
cause symptoms in that regard.
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Patients with retroperitoneal sarcomas may
have different symptoms such as bloating,
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abdominal pain, and
changes in their bowel patterns, or
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changes in their urinary patterns.
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Changes in the body are really
important to pay attention to.
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So if something is staying the same size,
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if something is growing,
if something is getting smaller.
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And also, how they noticed it?
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It's also important to
recall those details.
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Did it appear one day?
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Did it appear after a traumatic accident?
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And so putting together all those details,
will determine whether or
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not further work up is important.
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In general, if patients are concerned
about something on their body,
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we always encourage them to present to
their primary care doctor, obstetrician or
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gynecologist, for further evaluation.
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Soft Tissue Sarcoma. American Cancer Society. (Accessed on February 8, 2018 at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/soft-tissue-sarcoma)
Soft Tissue Sarcoma. UpToDate. (Accessed on February 8, 2018 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/soft-tissue-sarcoma-the-basics)