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Soft tissue sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that begins in the tissues that connect, support, and surround other structures in the body. This includes muscles, fat, blood vessels, nerves, tendons, and the lining of your joints.
There are over 50 subtypes of soft tissue sarcoma. Some types are more likely to affect children while others primarily affect adults. These tumors can be difficult to diagnose because they can be confused with many other types of tumors.
Soft tissue sarcoma must not initially cause any signs or symptoms. As the tumor grows, it can cause:
A noticeable lump or swelling
Pain when a tumor puts pressure on nerves or muscles
In most cases, it is not known what causes soft tissue sarcoma.
Cancer usually occurs when cells make mistakes (mutations) in their DNA. Errors cause cells to grow and divide uncontrollably. The abnormal cells that accumulate form a tumor that can grow to invade nearby structures, and the abnormal cells can spread to other parts of the body.
The type of cell that develops the genetic mutation will determine the type of soft tissue sarcoma you have. For example, angiosarcoma begins in the lining of blood vessels, while liposarcoma begins in fat cells. Some types of soft tissue sarcoma include:
Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST)
Some of the factors that can increase your risk of sarcoma include:
Hereditary Syndromes. The risk of soft tissue sarcoma can be inherited from your parents. Genetic syndromes that increase your risk include hereditary retinoblastoma, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis, neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, and Werner syndrome.
Exposure to chemicals. Exposure to certain chemicals like herbicides, arsenic, and dioxin can increase the risk of soft tissue sarcoma.
Radiation exposure. Previous radiation therapy for other cancers can increase the risk of soft tissue sarcoma.