Soft tissue sarcoma refers to a heterogeneous group of more than 50 types of cancers. Soft tissue sarcomas represent approximately 10% of all malignancies in men & .6% of those in women. They affect all age groups although some types are more common in younger & older patients. Sarcomas are found in all races.
Symptoms- as a group, soft tissue sarcomas usually begin as painless masses or lumps. They often develop a hard consistency. About 40% occur in the lower extremities, 20% in the upper extremities, 20% in the trunk, and the rest in the head, neck. Peripheral neuralgia (often characterized by stabbing pain), paralysis, or ischemia can occur because of pressure on nerve or vascular supply. The tumors also may interfere with visceral functions, resulting in obstruction of the bowel. General malaise, fever, and weight loss may occur with more extensive disease.
Causes- The cause of soft tissue sarcomas is not known. The majority of sarcomas appear to be malignant from the beginning, and very few develop in benign tumors. High dose radiation therapy, usually greater than 10,000 rad has been associated with an increased frequency of sarcomas. Although sarcomas occasionally have developed in old scars, trauma has never been established as a causative factor. Granulation tissue sarcoma may originate in burn, surgical or other scars.
Commonality- in the U.S an estimated 5600 new cases and 3000 deaths from soft tissue sarcomas are reported annually. They are more common in children than in adults. Although soft tissue sarcomas are rare, they are responsible for about 6% of the malignant tumors that occur before the age of 25, and they account for nearly 2% of all deaths from malignancy. Only .7% of all cancers are sarcomas, with age-adjusted incidence rate of 2 per 100,000.
Current Treatment-Surgical removal is the principal method of treating soft tissue sarcoma, provided there is no evidence of local invasion or metastases.