Soft tissue sarcoma is a broad term for cancers that start in soft tissues (muscle, tendons, fat, lymph and blood vessels, and nerves). These cancers can develop anywhere in the body but are found mostly in the arms, legs, chest, and abdomen. Explore the links on this page to learn more about different types of soft tissue sarcoma and how they are treated. We also have information about research and clinical trials.

NCI does not have PDQ evidence-based information about prevention of soft tissue sarcoma.

Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment

  • Adult soft tissue sarcoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the soft tissues of the body.
  • Having certain inherited disorders can increase the risk of adult soft tissue sarcoma.
  • A sign of adult soft tissue sarcoma is a lump or swelling in soft tissue of the body.
  • Adult soft tissue sarcoma is diagnosed with a biopsy.
  • Certain factors affect treatment options and prognosis (chance of recovery).

The soft tissues of the body include the muscles, tendons (bands of fiber that connect muscles to bones), fat, blood vessels, lymph vessels, nerves, and tissues around joints. Adult soft tissue sarcomas can form almost anywhere in the body, but are most common in the head, neck, arms, legs, trunk, abdomen, and retroperitoneum.

There are many types of soft tissue sarcoma. The cells of each type of sarcoma look different under a microscope, based on the type of soft tissue in which the cancer began.

Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors Treatment

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is part of the body’s digestive system. It helps to digest food and takes nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water) from food so they can be used by the body. The GI tract is made up of the following organs:

  • Stomach.
  • Small intestine.
  • Large intestine (colon).

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) may be malignant (cancer) or benign (not cancer). They are most common in the stomach and small intestine but may be found anywhere in or near the GI tract. Some scientists believe that GISTs begin in cells called interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC), in the wall of the GI tract. See the PDQ summary about Unusual Cancers of Childhood Treatment for information on the treatment of GIST in children.

Childhood Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors

GIST may occur as part of the following syndromes:

  • Carney triad (GIST, lung chondroma, and paraganglioma).
  • Carney-Stratakis syndrome (GIST and paraganglioma).

These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by GIST or by other conditions.

Kaposi Sarcoma Treatment

Kaposi sarcoma is a cancer that causes lesions (abnormal tissue) to grow in the skin; the mucous membranes lining the mouth, nose, and throat; lymph nodes; or other organs. The lesions are usually purple and are made of cancer cells, new blood vessels, red blood cells, and white blood cells. Kaposi sarcoma is different from other cancers in that lesions may begin in more than one place in the body at the same time.

Human herpesvirus-8 (HHV-8) is found in the lesions of all patients with Kaposi sarcoma. This virus is also called Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV). Most people with HHV-8 do not get Kaposi sarcoma. People with HHV-8 are more likely to develop Kaposi sarcoma if their immune system is weakened by disease, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or by drugs given after an organ transplant.

Childhood Rhabdomyosarcoma Treatment

Anything that increases the risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your child’s doctor if you think your child may be at risk.

Risk factors for rhabdomyosarcoma include having the following inherited diseases:

  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome.
  • Pleuropulmonary blastoma.
  • Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1).
  • Costello syndrome.
  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome.
  • Noonan syndrome.

Children who had a high birth weight or were larger than expected at birth may have an increased risk of embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma.

In most cases, the cause of rhabdomyosarcoma is not known.

Childhood Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment

Soft tissues of the body connect, support, and surround other body parts and organs. The soft tissue include the following:

  • Fat.
  • A mix of bone and cartilage.
  • Fibrous tissue.
  • Muscles.
  • Nerves.
  • Tendons (bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones).
  • Synovial tissues (tissues around joints).
  • Blood vessels.
  • Lymph vessels.

Soft tissue sarcoma may be found anywhere in the body. In children, the tumors form most often in the arms, legs, chest, or abdomen.

Childhood Vascular Tumors Treatment

Vascular tumors can form from abnormal blood vessel or lymph vessel cells anywhere in the body. They may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). There are many types of vascular tumors. The most common type of childhood vascular tumor is infantile hemangioma, which is a benign tumor that usually goes away on its own.

What is Cancer?

  • Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.

  • Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the risk of getting cancer. This can include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances, and taking medicines or vaccines that can prevent cancer from developing.

  • Cancer can cause many different symptoms. Most often these symptoms are not caused by cancer, but by benign tumors or other problems. If you have symptoms that last for a couple of weeks, your doctor will do a physical exam and order tests or other procedures to find out what is causing your symptoms.