​Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcoma is a cancer that affect the soft tissues of the body. These are the tissues that connect, support and cover other organs and structures in your body. Soft tissue sarcoma can attack your skin, muscle, blood vessels, fat, deep skin tissues, ligaments, tendons and the lining of your joints. It can form in almost any part of your body, for instance your legs, arms or abdomen.​

In most cases of soft tissue sarcoma, the causal factor is not known. However, there are a number of factors that are thought to increase the risk of developing such a cancer, including age, certain genetic conditions (such as Retinoblastoma) and exposure to certain toxic chemicals (such as vinyl chloride).

​Although there are often no noticeable symptoms in the initial stages of soft tissue sarcomas, you may sometimes notice soft, painless lump under your skin or even deeper. These may grow bigger over time (weeks or months).
As soft tissue develops into a later more serious stage, it may cause:

  • A most noticeable lump or swelling

  • Pain, especially if the tumour presses against your nerves or muscles

You should visit your doctor if you notice that you have developed a worrying lump or unexplained persistent pain. If the lump has grown large and can be compared to the size of a golf ball or is bigger, this should be regarded as suspicious and you need to get it examined urgently.

You can consult a specialist working with the Oncology Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital for consultation and diagnosis.
Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

If your doctor suspects that you may have soft tissue sarcoma, they will conduct a number of tests in order to give an accurate diagnosis.

Initially, the doctor will inquire about your symptoms and see if they correlate with those associated with soft tissue sarcoma. Next they will assess your family history. Some history of inherited disorders in the family may indicate a risk factor for soft tissue sarcoma. For instance, if you have inherited Von Recklinghausen disease, you may be at greater risk of developing soft tissue cancer.

Your doctor may then conduct a physical exam to see if there are any visible symptoms that may be associated to soft tissue sarcoma, or another illness.  

If you have come in contact with any toxic chemicals, this may be considered a risk factor for soft tissue sarcoma. For instance, the chemical Thorotrast (thorium dioxide) is thought to put you at greater risk of developing soft tissue cancer. Inform your doctor if you have come in contact with any chemicals that may be compromising to your health.

You will probably need to undergo further tests in confirm a diagnosis for soft tissue sarcoma, such as:

  • A biopsy – this is when a sample of tissue is removed using a needle so that it may be investigated in a laboratory for any signs of cancer.

  • Imaging tests – the main type of imaging technique used for this purpose is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which can scan and be used to inspect soft tissue sarcoma. Other scanning methods may also be used, including X-rays, Computerized Tomography (CT) scans and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans.

If your doctor is able to confirm that you do in fact have soft tissue sarcoma, these tests may also be used to help determine the stage (how much the cancer has spread) and the grade (how aggressive the cancer is).

There are a number of treatment options available for soft tissue sarcoma. A suitable treatment will be selected for you depending on a number of factors, such as your age, the stage of the cancer (how much the cancer has spread) the grade (how aggressive the cancer is), the location of the tumour, and you and your doctors preferences. 

Surgery is the most common treatment option for soft tissue sarcoma. The aim of surgery is to remove the cancer and maybe some healthy tissue that surrounds it as a preventative measure to ensure no cancer is left behind. If the soft tissue sarcoma progresses and has spread to other areas of your body (such as your lungs or other organs), it may be possible to remove these cancers surgically too. Sometimes chemotherapy, radiation treatment, or both are administered before your surgery. The purpose is to reduce the size of the tumour and to make it easier for it to be removed entirely. If the sarcoma has spread extensively, it will probably not be possible to cure sarcoma surgically. However, if the cancer is contained in a few spots it may be possible to remove the metastatic tumour, which could potentially cure patients or extend their long-term survival.

If the cancer has spread extensively to distant sites, and it is not possible to remove all of the sarcoma surgically, then it may be best not to have the surgery at all.

Please click here for some guidelines on “what to do before your surgery”
Please click here for some guidelines on “what to do on the day of your surgery”

There are some risks associated with anaesthesia, such as pain, itching, diarrhoea or difficulty in breathing. The risks of surgical procedures in general include bleeding and infection. Some specific possible risks associated with surgery to remove sarcoma include:

  • Pain

  • Bleeding

  • Damage to nearby tissues

  • Drug reactions

  • Damage to other organs ​

Please click here for some guidelines on “what to do on after your surgery
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
 The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.


The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.