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About sarcomas

Men and woman discussing soft tissue sarcomas

This page tells you about soft tissue sarcomas. You can read about

 

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About soft tissue sarcomas

Soft tissue is a term used to describe all the supporting tissues in the body, apart from the bones. Together, these tissues are known as connective tissues. They connect, support or surround other structures or organs in the body. Soft tissue includes

  • Fat
  • Muscle
  • Blood vessels
  • Deep skin tissues
  • Nerves
  • Tendons and ligaments
  • The tissues around joints (synovial tissues)

Sarcomas are cancers that develop from the cells that make up soft tissue. Soft tissue is in all parts of the body. So sarcomas can develop and grow almost anywhere.

The growth of the cancer causes a lump in the soft tissues. This can cause pressure on any body tissues or organs nearby. Over time, cancer cells from the original site may break away and spread to other parts of the body. Sarcomas can spread to almost any organ in the body. Most commonly they spread to the lungs, and they sometimes spread to the bones. The new cancers are known as secondary cancers or metastases.

 

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What soft tissue sarcomas are

Soft tissue sarcomas are cancers that develop from soft tissue. Soft tissue is a term used to describe all the supporting tissues in the body, apart from the bones. It includes

  • Fat
  • Muscle
  • Blood vessels
  • Deep skin tissues
  • Nerves
  • Tendons and ligaments
  • The tissues around joints (synovial tissues)

Diagram of the different types of soft tissue in the body

Together, these tissues are known as connective tissues. They connect, support or surround other structures or organs in the body.

 

Where sarcomas can grow

Soft tissue is in all parts of the body. So soft tissue sarcomas can develop and grow almost anywhere. If a sarcoma is not treated, the cells continue to divide and the sarcoma will grow in size.

The growth of the sarcoma causes a lump in the soft tissues. This can cause pressure on any body tissues or organs nearby. Over time, sarcoma cells from the original area may break away. If the cells get into the bloodstream they can spread to other areas of the body. These cells can then form new areas of sarcoma, which are known as secondary cancers or metastases. Sarcomas most commonly spread to the lungs. Sometimes they may spread to the bones.

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Updated: 6 February 2015