What are soft tissue sarcomas?

Sarcomas are rare. About 3,300 people a year in the UK are diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcomas are cancers that develop from cells in the soft, connective tissues of the body. They can occur in soft tissues such as fat, muscle, nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels or in any of the other tissues that support, surround and protect the organs of the body.

Soft tissue sarcomas can develop in any part of the body. Most of them develop in the arms and legs, but they can also develop in specific organs such as the womb (uterus), stomach, skin and small bowel. Less commonly, they may occur in the head and neck.

Some types of sarcoma occur in children, teenagers and young adults, but generally they are more likely to develop in people over the age of 30.

Bone sarcomas

Some sarcomas, such as osteosarcoma, start in the bone. These grow and develop differently and are treated differently from soft tissue sarcomas. Occasionally, it is hard to tell whether a sarcoma has started in soft tissue or bone. There are some types of sarcoma, such as Ewing’s tumours, that can begin in either the bone or soft tissue.

We have more information about cancer that starts in the bone.

Back to Understanding soft tissue sarcomas

What is cancer?

There are more than 200 different kinds of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.

Cancer and cell types

Cancers are grouped into types. Types of cancer often behave and respond to treatments in different ways.

Why do cancers come back?

Sometimes, tiny cancer cells are left behind after cancer treatment. These can divide to form a new tumour.