About soft tissue sarcomas

Sarcomas are rare. Each year, about 3,300 people in the UK are diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma.

Soft tissue sarcomas are cancers that develop from cells in the supporting tissues of the body. They 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.

Soft tissue sarcomas can develop anywhere in the body. The most common parts of the body for them to develop are the arms and legs. Nearly half of all soft tissue sarcomas develop there. They can also develop in organs such as the womb (uterus), stomach, skin and intestines. Or they can develop in the area in the back of the tummy (abdomen), called the retroperitoneum. Less commonly, they can develop in the head and neck.

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

Bone sarcomas

Some sarcomas, such as osteosarcoma, start in the bone. They grow, develop and are treated differently from soft tissue sarcomas. Sometimes it is hard to tell whether a sarcoma has started in soft tissue or bone. Some types of sarcoma, such as Ewing tumours, can start in either the bone or the soft tissue.

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