Soft Tissue Sarcoma
Soft Tissue Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that is caused around bones and organs. It may occur anywhere in your occur but is mostly found in areas such as arms, legs, chest, and space behind your belly (retroperitoneum).
Around 3% of Soft tissue sarcoma cancer is found in children aged 14 and younger. They are most common in adults than in children and adolescents between the age group of 15 and 19.
Types of Soft Tissue Sarcoma
There are around 70 different types of Soft Tissue Sarcoma. Some tissue sarcoma is common in adults while some in children and adolescents.
The most common types of Soft Tissue Sarcoma found in adults are –
- Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma – They are found in soft tissues of arms, legs, and chest that spreads quickly to other areas of the body.
- Leiomyosarcoma – It starts in smooth muscles such as the belly, bladder, uterus, intestine, and blood vessels.
- Liposarcoma – It appears in the belly but it can also appear in the thighs and other areas of your body.
Soft Tissue Sarcoma
The most common types of soft tissue sarcoma found in children and adolescents are –
- Rhabdomyosarcoma – It is a rare type of cancer that can be treatable but may come back again. Around 70% of people with Rhabdomyosarcoma survive for five years or longer.
- Ewing sarcoma – It develops in tissues next to your bones. It is commonly found in the pelvis, chest, and thighs. This condition mostly affects children and teens between the age of 10 and 12 compared to adults. The five-year survival rate for children (aged below 15) is 76% and for teenage between 15 and 19 is 59%.
Signs and Symptoms
Soft tissue sarcoma (STS) symptoms are similar to other disease conditions. The signs and symptoms of STS can vary depending on the location and size of the tumor. Here are some common symptoms –
- A lump or swelling – A painless lump or swelling in the soft tissues, which may or may not be visible, is the most common symptom of STS. It can occur anywhere in the body.
- Pain – Pain in the affected area, especially if it increases over time, can be a sign of STS.
- Limited movement – If the tumor is located near a joint, it can limit movement and cause stiffness.
- Numbness or tingling – STS that develops in or near nerves can cause numbness or tingling sensations in the affected area.
- Fatigue – Some people with STS may experience fatigue due to the body’s immune response to cancer.
- Unintentional weight loss – Rapid and unintentional weight loss may be a symptom of advanced STS.
- Fever – In rare cases, a fever may be present if the tumor has become infected.
Many of these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, and having one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have STS. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment. Early detection and treatment of STS can improve the chances of successful treatment and recovery.
Causes and Risk Factors
The actual cause of soft tissue sarcoma is not yet known. However, there are certain risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing this type of cancer. Some of the causes and risk factors of soft tissue sarcoma include –
- Genetic factors – Soft tissue sarcoma can be caused by genetic mutations that occur spontaneously or are inherited from a parent.
- Exposure to radiation – Exposure to high doses of radiation can increase the risk of developing soft tissue sarcoma. This can occur as a result of radiation therapy for other cancers or exposure to radiation in the workplace or environment.
- Chemical exposure – Exposure to certain chemicals, such as vinyl chloride and dioxin, can increase the risk of developing soft tissue sarcoma.
- Age – Soft tissue sarcoma is more common in adults, particularly those over the age of 50.
- Gender – Soft tissue sarcoma is slightly more common in men than in women.
- Prior history of cancer – People who have had cancer in the past may be at a higher risk of developing soft tissue sarcoma.
- Certain medical conditions – People with certain medical conditions, such as neurofibromatosis and Li-Fraumeni syndrome, have a higher risk of developing soft tissue sarcoma.
Having one or more of these risk factors does not necessarily mean you will develop soft tissue sarcoma, and many people with STS have no known risk factors. If you have concerns about your risk of developing soft tissue sarcoma, talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you understand your risk and provide recommendations for early detection and prevention.
Healthcare professionals will look up for certain symptoms such as lumps or bumps in the body through physical examination. Also, additional tests will be performed by your healthcare provider to detect the presence of soft tissue sarcoma such as –
- X-rays – It takes detailed pictures of soft tissues.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan – It uses magnetic radio waves to create detailed images of internal organs. It is effective in detecting the abnormal growth of cells in the body.
- Computed Tomography (CT) scan – It is a combination of many X-ray images for capturing the cross-sectional views of images. It is often used in areas of the chest and back of your belly.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan -It injects a glucose-like substance into veins to find the accurate location of the tumor. As cancer cells absorb glucose by showing up tumors brighter in the image compared to normal cells.
- Ultrasound – Ultrasound may be used to detect soft tissue sarcoma in the extremities and to guide a biopsy procedure.
- Biopsy – A biopsy involves removing a small sample of tissue from the tumor and examining it under a microscope. This can help to confirm the diagnosis of soft tissue sarcoma and determine the type of tumor.
- Blood tests – Blood tests may be done to check for specific markers that can indicate the presence of soft tissue sarcoma.
- Molecular testing – Some soft tissue sarcomas have specific genetic mutations that can be identified through molecular testing. This can help to determine the best treatment options for the individual.
The specific diagnostic tests used for soft tissue sarcoma may vary depending on the location and size of the tumor, as well as other individual factors. If you have concerns about a lump or other symptoms, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider. They can help determine the appropriate diagnostic tests and provide recommendations for treatment.
Your healthcare provider will develop treatment plans on the basis of the prognoses and the medical condition of an individual including –
- Type of cancer
- Tumor grade i.e. low, moderate, or higher
- Cancer spread to other parts of the body
There are basically four stages (Stage I to Stage IV) of Soft Tissue Sarcoma characterized by symptoms, grade (GX to G3), tumor, size, and the spread of cancer cells.
Stage I – The tumor is small and of low grade (GX or G1)
Stage II – The tumor is small and of higher grade (G2 or G3)
Stage III – The tumor is larger and of higher grade (G2 or G3)
Stage IV – Cancer has spread to other parts of the body and may or may not have reached the lymph nodes (any G).
The treatment options for soft tissue sarcoma depend on several factors, including the location, size, and stage of the tumor, as well as the individual’s overall health and preferences. Here are some common treatments for soft tissue sarcoma –
1. Surgery – Surgery is the most common treatment for soft tissue sarcoma. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue. In some cases, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be used before or after surgery to improve the chances of successful treatment.
2. Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy involves using high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. It may be used alone or in combination with surgery or chemotherapy to treat soft tissue sarcoma. There are two types of radiation therapies –
- External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) – It uses high-energy radiation to directly target the tumor.
- Internal beam radiation (IBR) – It places radiation close to the cancer cells. It is used to treat smaller tumors.
3. Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy involves using drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be used alone or in combination with surgery or radiation therapy to treat soft tissue sarcoma.
4. Targeted therapy – Targeted therapy involves using drugs that target specific molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. This type of treatment may be used for certain types of soft tissue sarcoma that have specific genetic mutations. It targets specific diseases with the two most common kinds of targeted therapies i.e monoclonal antibodies and small-molecule drugs.
Clinical trials are research studies that test new treatments for soft tissue sarcoma. People with soft tissue sarcoma may be eligible to participate in clinical trials, which can provide access to new treatments that are not yet widely available.
The specific treatment plan for soft tissue sarcoma will vary depending on the individual’s unique situation. If you have been diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma, it’s important to work with your healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan that is right for you.