What is sarcoma?

Sarcomas are rare cancers that develop in the supporting tissues of the body. Supporting tissues include bone, cartilage, tendons, fat and muscle.

There are 2 main types of sarcoma:

  • soft tissue sarcomas
  • bone sarcomas (also called primary bone cancer).

Depending on the type, you may have different tests and treatments. You can find more information by following the links below.

Booklets and resources

Soft tissue sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcomas can develop in any tissues that support, connect, surround and protect the organs of the body. This includes:

  • fat
  • muscle
  • nerves
  • fibrous tissues
  • tendons and ligaments
  • blood vessels.

There are many different types of soft tissue sarcoma. We have more information about the following types:

Bone sarcoma

Sarcoma that starts in a bone is also called primary bone cancer. There are different types of bone cancer. The most common types are:

Ewing sarcoma

Ewing sarcoma is a type of sarcoma that usually starts in the bone but can also start in soft tissues. It is most often found in teenagers and young adults, but it can happen at other ages.

We have more information about Ewing sarcoma.

Sarcoma symptoms

The symptoms of sarcoma depend on the part of the body that is affected. It may cause:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • a lump that is getting bigger.

We have more information about possible symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma and of bone cancer. If you are worried about any symptoms you have, talk to your GP.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our sarcoma information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    Gronchi A, Miah AB et al. Soft tissue and visceral sarcomas: ESMO-EURACAN-GENTURIS Clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology, 2021; 32, 11, 1348-1365 (accessed May 2022).

    Casali PG, Blay JY et al. Gastrointestinal stromal tumours: ESMO-EURACAN-GENTURIS Clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology, 2022; 33,1, 20-33 (accessed May 2022).

    Lebbe C et al. Diagnosis and treatment of Kaposi's sarcoma: European consensus-based interdisciplinary guideline (EDF/EADO/EORTC). European Journal of Cancer, 2019; Volume 114, p117-127 (accessed May 2022).

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by senior medical editor Fiona Cowie, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
  • explain medical words
  • use short sentences
  • use illustrations to explain text
  • structure the information clearly
  • make sure important points are clear.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 August 2022
Next review: 01 August 2025
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.