Posted Date: Apr 12, 2006
Adult soft tissue sarcoma is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the soft tissue of part of the body. The soft tissues of the body include the muscles, connective tissues (tendons), vessels that carry blood or lymph, joints, and fat.
A lump or swelling in part of the body may appear if a person has a soft tissue sarcoma. The lump may not be painful. If there are symptoms, a doctor may cut out a piece of tissue from the swollen area. This is called a biopsy. The tissue will be looked at under a microscope to see if there are any cancer cells. A patient may need to go to the hospital for this test.
Once adult soft tissue sarcoma is found, more tests will be done to find out if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. This testing is called staging. A doctor needs to know the stage of the disease to plan treatment. Unlike most other cancers, the size of a soft tissue sarcoma is not as important as how the cancer cells look under a microscope. The more different the cancer cells look from normal cells, the higher the stage. The following stages are used for adult soft tissue sarcoma:
The cancer cells look either very much like or somewhat different from normal cells (well-differentiated or moderately well-differentiated). The cancer is either near the surface or deep and may be any size. The cancer has not spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body (lymph nodes are small bean-shaped structures that are found throughout the body; they produce and store infection-fighting cells).
The cancer cells look very different from normal cells (poorly differentiated or undifferentiated). The cancer is either near the surface or deep and is 5 centimeters or smaller in size, but it has not spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
The cancer cells look very different from normal cells (poorly differentiated or undifferentiated). The cancer is deep and is more than 5 centimeters in size, but it has not spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
There are treatments for all patients with adult soft tissue sarcoma. Three kinds of treatment are used:
Surgery is the most common treatment of adult soft tissue sarcoma. A doctor may remove the cancer and some of the healthy tissue around the cancer. Sometimes all or part of an arm or leg may have to be removed (amputated) to make sure that all of the cancer is taken out. If cancer has spread to lymph nodes, the lymph nodes will be removed (lymph node dissection).
Radiation therapy uses x-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy) or from putting materials that produce radiation (radioisotopes) through thin plastic tubes in the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy).
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in a vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and kills cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy that is given after surgery when no cancer cells can be seen is called adjuvant chemotherapy. In soft tissue sarcoma, chemotherapy is sometimes injected directly into the blood vessels in the area where the cancer is found. This treatment is called regional chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may be used to shrink the cancer so it can be removed without taking off an entire arm or leg.
Treatments for adult soft tissue sarcoma depend on the stage of the disease, and the patient's age and general health.
Patients may consider standard therapy, because of its effectiveness in past studies, or participation in a clinical trial. Not all patients are cured with standard therapy, and some standard treatments may have more side effects than are desired. For these reasons, clinical trials are designed to find better ways to treat cancer patients and are based on the most up-to-date information. For more information about clinical trials, call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237); TTY at 1-800-332-8615.
If cancer is found in the head or neck or in the abdomen or chest, treatment may be one of the following:
If the cancer has spread to the lungs, treatment may be one of the following:
. Changes were made to this summary to match those made to the health professional version.
For more information, U.S. residents may call the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Deaf and hard-of-hearing callers with TTY equipment may call 1-800-332-8615. The call is free and a trained Cancer Information Specialist is available to answer your questions.
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PDQ® is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. Most of the information contained in PDQ® is available online at NCI's Web site. PDQ® is provided as a service of the NCI. The NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health, the federal government's focal point for biomedical research.
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The PDQ® database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries are available in two versions. The health professional versions provide detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions provide current and accurate cancer information.
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PDQ® also contains information on clinical trials.
Before starting treatment, patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether one treatment is better than another. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients. During treatment clinical trials, information is collected about new treatments, the risks involved, and how well they do or do not work. If a clinical trial shows that a new treatment is better than one currently being used, the new treatment may become "standard."
Listings of clinical trials are included in PDQ® and are available online at NCI's Web site. Descriptions of the trials are available in health professional and patient versions. Many cancer doctors who take part in clinical trials are also listed in PDQ®. For more information, call the Cancer Information Service 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237); TTY at 1-800-332-8615.