About symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcoma can start in any part of the body. The symptoms depend on the part of the body affected. Often, they do not cause any symptoms until they start pressing on an organ, nerve or muscle.

The main symptom is a lump or swelling that is:

  • getting bigger
  • bigger than 5cm (2in) – about the size of a golf ball
  • painful or tender.

Most soft tissue lumps are not cancer. But if you notice any of these symptoms, get them checked by your GP. They can arrange a scan.

We understand that showing any symptoms of what could be cancer is worrying. The most important thing is to speak to your GP as soon as possible. We're also here if you need someone to talk to. You can:

Symptoms of a sarcoma in an arm or a leg

The most common symptom of sarcoma in an arm or leg is a lump that gets bigger.

Sometimes the swelling is painful or tender, but it may be painless.

Symptoms of a sarcoma in the central part of the body

If there is a sarcoma in the central part of the body (the trunk), symptoms will depend on the organ that is affected. The following are examples of sarcomas that start in the trunk:

  • Sarcoma in a lung can cause a cough and breathlessness.
  • Sarcoma in the tummy (abdomen) can cause pain and swelling in the tummy, vomiting (being sick) and constipation.
  • A gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST) can cause bleeding in the bowel, dark-coloured poo and blood in vomit. It may also cause symptoms of anaemia, such as shortness of breath and tiredness.
  • Sarcoma in the womb can cause bleeding from the vagina or pain in the pelvis (lower tummy).

Symptoms of sarcoma in the skin

The main symptom of sarcoma in the skin is usually a small patch of skin that is firm, slightly raised and purplish or reddish.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our soft tissue sarcoma information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    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].

  • 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.