Soft tissue sarcoma 


Coping with cancer

In this video, people who have been through cancer treatment talk about what kept them going and the practicalities of treatment.

Media last reviewed: 14/11/2013

Next review due: 14/11/2015

What is cancer?

The body is made up of millions of different types of cells. Cancer happens when some of the cells multiply in an abnormal way. When cancer affects organs and solid tissues, it causes a growth called a tumour to form. Cancer can occur in any part of the body where the cells multiply abnormally.

Soft tissue sarcoma is cancer that develops in the soft tissues of the body. The term soft tissue is used to describe all of the supporting tissue in the body apart from the bones – this includes fat, muscle and deep skin tissues. Cancer can develop in any of these cells.

In the UK, around 3,000 people are diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma each year. It is more likely to develop in adults over the age of 50.

Soft tissue sarcoma does not usually cause symptoms in the early stages. As the sarcoma grows, a lump may be noticeable and this may be painful if it presses against surrounding tissue and nerves.

There are over 50 different types of soft tissue sarcoma, depending on where in the body they are located. For example:

  • Leiomyosarcomas - which develop in muscle tissue
  • Liposarcomas - which develop in fat tissue
  • Angiosarcomas - which develop in the cells of the blood or lymph vessels

One particular type of soft tissue sarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, develops from skin cells. It is more common in people who have a weakened immune system, including people with HIV.


Soft tissue sarcoma can be treated using a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. As with most types of cancer, the outlook for each case depends largely on how far the cancer has advanced when diagnosed.

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Page last reviewed: 04/09/2012

Next review due: 04/09/2014


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