Signs and symptoms of soft tissue sarcomas

Soft tissue sarcomas can start in any part of the body. The symptoms depend on the part of the body that is affected. Often, soft tissue sarcomas do not cause any symptoms until they are quite large and pressing on an organ, nerve or muscle in the body.

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.

Symptoms of a sarcoma in an arm or a leg

If there is a sarcoma in an arm or a leg, the most common symptom is an uncomfortable swelling in the affected limb.

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

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), the symptoms depend on which of the body’s organs is affected. For example, you may:

  • have a cough and breathlessness if there is a sarcoma in a lung
  • have tummy (abdominal) pain, vomiting and constipation if there is a sarcoma in the tummy
  • vomit blood or have dark coloured poo if there is a gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST) – this is because of bleeding in the bowel
  • have symptoms of a low number of red blood cells (anaemia), such as shortness of breath and tiredness if there is a GIST – this is also caused by bleeding in the bowel
  • bleed from the vagina and have pain in the lower part of the tummy if there is a sarcoma in the womb.

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.

About soft tissue sarcomas

Soft tissue sarcomas are rare cancers that develop from cells in the tissues that support and surround the body’s organs.

Why do cancers come back?

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