The soft tissue
The soft tissues of the body connect, surround and support other body tissue and organs. Soft tissue includes muscle, cartilage, fat, fibrous tissue, nerves and blood vessels.
Types of soft tissue sarcoma
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
There are also bone sarcomas. You can find out more about these in our bone cancer section.
Doctors can tell the type of soft tissue sarcoma by closely examining the sample of tissue that’s been removed (called a biopsy) under a microscope.
These develop from muscle and the surrounding tissue. There are two main types that affect younger people:
- Alveolar rhabdomyosarcomas - these are more common in teenagers and young adults and are usually found in an arm or leg (limb), or in the muscles of the chest or tummy (abdomen).
- Embryonal rhabdomyosarcomas - these are more common in children and can start in a number of areas, for example, around the eye, where the throat joins with the nose, the bladder, the womb, or the vagina.
These usually develop near to but not inside joints, such as the knee or elbow. But they can develop anywhere in the body. They usually appear as hard lumps.
These start in cells called fibrocytes, which form the tissue that helps join parts of our body together, such as joining the muscles to the bones. Fibrosarcomas are usually found in the arms, legs or torso, but can also start in areas deeper in the body.
The information in this section covers the common types of soft tissue sarcoma, but if you have a different one and want to know more, please contact us.
We don't know what causes sarcomas in teenagers and young adults.
Remember that nothing you’ve done has caused the cancer.
Some rare conditions that run in families (known as genetic conditions) can increase the chance (risk) of getting a soft tissue sarcoma. You would usually know if anyone in your family had one of these conditions.
People who had radiotherapy for another type of cancer when they were a child may have an increased risk of developing a sarcoma in later life - this would be from their teens onwards.
People often think a knock or injury might have caused a sarcoma, but there’s no evidence for this.
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 sarcomas information.