Soft tissue sarcomas
This section is for teenagers and young adults. It’s about a type of cancer called soft tissue sarcoma.
There are several different types of soft tissue sarcoma. The information in this section covers rhabdomyosarcomas, synovial sarcomas, soft tissue Ewing’s sarcoma and fibrosarcomas.These are the most common types in teenagers. If you have a different type and want to know more, please contact us.
We also have more info about:
If you're looking for information about soft tissue sarcomas in people of all ages, please see our general soft tissue sarcoma section.
Soft tissue sarcomas are cancers that develop from cells in the soft, supporting tissues of the body. There are many different types, but the ones that tend to affect teenagers are:
- synovial sarcomas
- soft tissue Ewing’s sarcoma
Sarcomas can also develop in the bones. This is called osteosarcoma. You can find out more in our bone cancer section.
Signs and symptoms of soft tissue sarcomas
The symptoms of a sarcoma will depend on where it is:
- If it’s in an arm or leg, symptoms include a lump or swelling in the limb. This is usually painless, but not always.
- If it’s in the tummy (abdomen), symptoms include a painful, swollen tummy, and problems going to the toilet to poo (called constipation).
- If it’s in your bladder, symptoms include pain in the lower tummy, finding it difficult to wee (pass urine), and having blood in your wee.
- If it’s in the chest, symptoms can include breathlessness, a cough and pain in your chest.
- If it’s in the head or neck, symptoms include a lump, a blockage and discharge from the nose or throat. Occasionally an eye may become swollen and stick out a bit.
You may also have other symptoms, such as tiredness, loss of appetite or weight loss.
Remember – most people with the symptoms listed here won’t have a sarcoma. But if you have any of these symptoms, or are worried that you may have a sarcoma, the first thing to do is to see your GP. They'll examine you and refer you to a hospital if they think you need to see a specialist doctor.
We don't know what causes sarcomas in teenagers and young adults.
People often think a knock or injury might have caused a sarcoma, but there’s no evidence for this.
Remember that nothing you’ve done has caused the cancer.
Types of soft tissue sarcoma
This type of sarcoma grows in the active muscles of the body. These are muscles that we have control over, like the muscles we use to move our arms or legs. Rhabdomyosarcomas are most likely to happen in the head, neck, bladder, vagina, arms, legs and trunk.
There are different types or rhabdomyosarcoma. The most likely one to happen in teenagers and young adults is called an alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma and affects an arm or a leg.
To find out more look at the rhabdomyosarcoma information that is written for all ages.
This type of sarcoma is most likely to happen in the tissue around the joints, like your elbow, knee and ankle. It can also happen in other parts of your body, but that is less common. This type of sarcoma might not be obvious straight away because the lump grows slowly and is usually not sore.
Soft tissue Ewing’s sarcoma
If you have a type of soft tissue sarcoma called a soft tissue Ewing's sarcoma, it's treated in the same way as a Ewing’s sarcoma in a bone. You can read more about this in our bone cancer section.
This type of sarcoma happens in the fibrous tissue in your body. Fibrous tissue joins the structures inside your body together - like your muscles to bones. You’re most likely to find a fibrosarcoma on your arms, legs or trunk, but they can happen deeper in your body.