What is the definition of Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma?

Soft tissue sarcoma (STS) is cancer that forms in the soft tissue of the body. Soft tissue connects, supports, or surrounds other body parts. In adults, STS is rare.

There are many different types of soft tissue cancers. The type of sarcoma depends on the tissue it forms in:

  • Muscles
  • Tendons
  • Fat
  • Blood vessels
  • Lymph vessels
  • Nerves
  • Tissues in and around joints

The cancer can form almost anywhere, but is most common in the:

  • Head
  • Neck
  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Trunk
  • Abdomen

What are the alternative names for Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma?

STS; Leiomyosarcoma; Hemangiosarcoma; Kaposi's sarcoma; Lymphangiosarcoma; Synovial sarcoma; Neurofibrosarcoma; Liposarcoma; Fibrosarcoma; Malignant fibrous histiocytoma; Dermatofibrosarcoma; Angiosarcoma

What are the causes for Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma?

It is not known what causes most sarcomas. But there are certain risk factors:

  • Some inherited diseases, such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Radiation therapy for other cancers
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, such as vinyl chloride or certain herbicides
  • Having swelling in the arms or legs for a long time (lymphedema)

What are the symptoms for Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma?

In early stages, there are often no symptoms. As the cancer grows, it may cause a lump or swelling that keeps growing over time. Most lumps are NOT cancer.

Other symptoms include:

  • Pain, if it presses on a nerve, organ, blood vessel, or muscle
  • Blockage or bleeding in the stomach or intestines
  • Breathing problems

What are the current treatments for Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma?

Surgery is the most common treatment for STS.

  • In early stages, the tumor and some healthy tissue around it is removed.
  • Sometimes, just a small amount of tissue needs to be removed. Other times, a wider area of tissue must be removed.
  • With advanced cancers that form in an arm or leg, surgery may be followed by radiation or chemotherapy. Rarely, the limb may need to be amputated.

You also may have radiation or chemotherapy:

  • Used before surgery to help shrink the tumor to make it easier to remove the cancer
  • Used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells

Chemotherapy may be used to help kill cancer that has metastasized. This means it has spread to different areas of the body.

What are the support groups for Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma?

Cancer affects how you feel about yourself and your life. You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have had the same experiences and problems can help you feel less alone.

Ask your provider to help you find a support group for people who have been diagnosed with STS.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma?

The outlook for people whose cancer is treated early is very good. Most people who survive 5 years can expect to be cancer-free at 10 years.

What are the possible complications for Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma?

Complications include side effects from surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

When should I contact a medical professional for Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma?

See your provider about any lump that grows in size or is painful.

How do I prevent Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma?

The cause of most STSs isn't known and there is no way to prevent it. Knowing your risk factors and telling your provider when you first notice symptoms can increase your chance of surviving this type of cancer.


Contreras CM, Heslin MJ. Soft tissue sarcoma. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 31.

National Cancer Institute website. Adult soft tissue sarcoma treatment (PDQ) - health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/soft-tissue-sarcoma/hp/adult-soft-tissue-treatment-pdq#section/all. Updated January 15, 2021. Accessed February19, 2021.

Van Tine BA. Sarcomas of soft tissue. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 90.

  • Condition: Maxillofacial and Paranasal Sinus Skull Base Malignant Tumor
  • Journal: Zhonghua er bi yan hou tou jing wai ke za zhi = Chinese journal of otorhinolaryngology head and neck surgery
  • Treatment Used: Surgical Removal and Free Flap Repair
  • Number of Patients: 9
  • Published —
The study researched the outcomes of resection and free flap repair of recurrent maxillofacial and paranasal sinus skull base malignant tumor.
  • Condition: Bone Sarcomas
  • Journal: Chinese medical journal
  • Treatment Used: Computer Navigation-Aided Joint-Preserving Resection and Custom-Made Endoprosthesis Reconstruction
  • Number of Patients: 24
  • Published —
This study reported experience with computer navigation-aided joint-preserving resection and custom-made endoprosthesis reconstruction in the treatment of patients with bone sarcoma.