Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

Stages of soft tissue sarcoma

Men and woman discussing soft tissue sarcomas

This page tells you about the stages of soft tissue sarcoma. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Stages of soft tissue sarcoma

The stage of a sarcoma tells the doctor how big the sarcoma is and whether it has spread. It is important because treatment is often decided according to the stage of a cancer. There are different ways of staging cancers. The two main ways are the TNM system and number systems. 

Grade is also important when staging sarcomas. The grade means how normal or abnormal the cells of a tumour appear to be. It is decided by looking at cells from your cancer under a microscope. The grade gives your doctor an idea of how quickly or slowly your cancer is likely to grow. A low grade cancer is likely to be slower growing and less likely to spread to another part of the body. A high grade cancer is likely to be faster growing and is more likely to spread than a low grade sarcoma.

TNM stands for Tumour, Node, Metastasis. This describes the size of the tumour and whether it is near the body surface (superficial) or deep in the tissue, whether there are lymph nodes with cancer cells in them, and whether or not the cancer has spread.

The number stages of sarcoma are

  • Stage 1A – the tumour is low grade, small (5cm or less), superficial or deep with no sign of spread
  • Stage 1B – the tumour is low grade, large (more than 5cm) and superficial or deep with no sign of spread
  • Stage 2A – the tumour is medium or high grade, small, superficial or deep with no sign of spread
  • Stage 2B – the tumour is medium grade, large, superficial or deep with no sign of spread
  • Stage 3 – the tumour is high grade, large, superficial or deep and may have spread to lymph nodes
  • Stage 4 the tumour can be any size and any grade, but has spread to another part of the body including the lymph nodes

Recurrence means that a soft tissue sarcoma has come back after it was first treated.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating soft tissue sarcoma section.

 

 

What staging means

The stage of a sarcoma tells the doctor how big it is and whether it has spread. The tests and scans you have when diagnosing your cancer give some information about the stage. It is important because treatment is often decided according to the stage of a cancer.

There are different ways of staging cancers. The two main ways are the TNM system and number systems. There is detailed information about staging cancers in the general section about cancer.

Generally speaking, the lower the stage, the more chance of curing the cancer. Doctors also take the grade of the cancer into account when staging sarcomas.

 

Grade of soft tissue sarcomas

The grade tells you how normal or abnormal the cells of a tumour appear to be. Your doctor takes a sample of the sarcoma (a biopsy). A pathologist looks at the sample under a microscope to grade it as one of the following.

  • Grade 1 – the cells are low grade (well differentiated), which means they look quite similar to normal cells
  • Grade 2 – the cells are intermediate grade (moderately differentiated), which means they look more abnormal than low grade cells
  • Grade 3 – the cells are high grade (poorly differentiated), which means they look very abnormal and not much like normal cells

Grade is important because it tells you how the cancer is likely to behave. A low grade cancer is likely to be slower growing and less likely to spread to another part of the body. A high grade cancer is likely to be faster growing and is more likely to spread than a low grade sarcoma. The grade is one of the things your doctors need to know to work out the stage of your sarcoma. There is information about grade in the about cancer section.

 

The TNM stages

TNM refers to tumour, nodes and metastasis. Metastasis means whether the cancer has spread to another part of the body.

There are 2 T stages for soft tissue sarcomas but each stage is divided into a and b

  • T1a means the tumour is 5cm or less across at its widest point, and is near the body surface (superficial)
  • T1b means the tumour is 5cm or less across and is deep in the body tissues
  • T2a means the tumour is more than 5cm across and is near the body surface (superficial)
  • T2b means the tumour is more than 5cm across and is deep in the body tissues

There are 2 N stages

  • N0 means no lymph nodes have been found that contain cancer cells
  • N1 means there are sarcoma cells in at least 1 lymph node

It is not common for soft tissue sarcomas to spread to lymph nodes.

There are 2 M stages

  • M0 means there are no signs that the sarcoma has spread to another part of the body
  • M1 means that the sarcoma has spread to another part of the body
 

The number stages

There are 4 major number stages for sarcoma. But stage 1 and stage 2 are both divided into 2 subgroups. The number stages of soft tissue sarcoma are

  • Stage 1A – the tumour is low grade, small (5cm or less), superficial or deep with no sign of spread
  • Stage 1B – the tumour is low grade, large (more than 5cm) and superficial or deep with no sign of spread
  • Stage 2A – the tumour is medium or high grade, small, superficial or deep with no sign of spread
  • Stage 2B – the tumour is medium grade, large, superficial or deep with no sign of spread
  • Stage 3 – the tumour is high grade, large, superficial or deep and may have spread to lymph nodes
  • Stage 4 the tumour can be any size and any grade, but has spread to another part of the body including lymph nodes

Recurrence means a soft tissue sarcoma has come back after it was first treated.

Rate this page:
Submit rating

 

Rated 5 out of 5 based on 24 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 24 May 2013