Symptoms of soft tissue sarcomas

Sarcomas often do not cause any symptoms for a long time. They can start in any part of the body and the symptoms will depend on the part of the body that is affected.

If the sarcoma is in an arm or a leg, the most common symptom is an uncomfortable swelling in the affected limb. Occasionally, this swelling may be painful or tender, but it may also be painless.

If the sarcoma is in the central part of the body (the trunk), the symptoms will depend on which of the body’s organs is affected. For example:

  • A sarcoma in a lung may cause a cough and breathlessness.
  • A sarcoma in the abdomen could cause abdominal pain, vomiting and constipation.
  • A gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST) may also cause bleeding into the bowel. This may cause you to vomit blood, pass dark bowel motions or develop symptoms of anaemia (a low number of red blood cells), such as shortness of breath or tiredness.
  • A sarcoma affecting the womb may cause bleeding from the vagina and pain in the lower part of the abdomen.

Usually, soft tissue sarcomas do not cause any symptoms until they are quite large and pressing on an organ in the body, or on a nerve or muscle. Things to look out for include:

  • any lump, especially if it is increasing in size and is bigger than 5cm (2in)
  • any lump that is painful or tender
  • any lump that is deep in the body (and not just under the skin)
  • any lump that has come back after being surgically removed.

If you notice any of the above, contact your GP, but remember that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions.

Back to Understanding soft tissue sarcomas

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