Soft tissue sarcoma is a type of cancer which affects the soft tissues, like muscles, fat, blood vessels, etc. Any injury in the soft tissue, which has been overlooked, can also turn into cancer as a result of unhealthy growth of cells.
The soft tissues in our body perform a key role in connecting the organs of the body with each other. Examples of soft tissues are blood vessels, fascia, fat, ligaments, muscles, nerves, synovial membranes, tendons, etc. These are spread in all parts of the body, and support the structure of the body, envelop the organs, attach bones with each other, and also help in locomotion.
At times, due to some abnormality, tumors may grow in these soft tissues and lead to cancer. These tumors may begin as a tiny hard lump benign in nature, which may increase in size and show signs of malignancy. This cancer can spread rapidly to other tissues, thereby destroying them completely. Though rare in nature, sarcoma in the soft tissues should not be ignored, and prompt medical intervention should be provided in order to avoid soft tissue damage and other unwanted complications.
Though the exact reason for the occurrence of soft tissue cancer is not yet known, these can grow in any part of the body, without any warning. Only one type of soft tissue sarcoma-Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS)-has a known cause. In some cases, these sarcomas may also pass on from the parent to the offspring through defective genes. Hence, it is also hereditary in nature. However, some of the possible causes of this destructive disorder are mentioned below.
- Kaposi’s sarcoma is caused by the human herpes virus 8 (HHV8) which affects people who have a defective immune system. Patches of abnormal tissue may grow in the inner lining of the organs like the mouth, nose, and throat. Lesions, usually purplish red in color, may also grow on the skin.
- Unhealed soft tissue injury can result in the formation of blood clots inside the body. These blood clots may develop into unhealthy tissue and spread to the lymph nodes and nearby organs, thus affecting them and causing sarcoma of the soft tissue.
- A rare form of congenital eye cancer, known as inherited retinoblastoma, may be caused due to a mutated gene and make the child susceptible to sarcoma of the eye.
- This cancer can develop in the inner walls of the abdomen and intestines. It can cause malignant (cancerous) as well as benign (non-cancerous) growths in the abdominal region. This condition is referred to as Gardner syndrome.
- In basal cell nevus syndrome, which is also caused due to a defective gene, individuals suffering from this syndrome are at a higher risk of developing fibrosarcoma or rhabdomyosarcoma, which can also end up as basal cell skin cancer.
- When an individual is said to be affected by Li-Fraumeni syndrome, he (or she) is at a higher risk of contracting brain cancer, breast cancer, and many other types of sarcomas.
- Over exposure to radiation, chemicals, and heavy metals like vinyl chloride, herbicides, mercury, cadmium, can trigger unhealthy growth and development of cells in the body system. This factor increases the susceptibility to cancer in the soft tissues.
In the initial stages, this cancer does not exhibit any symptoms. Only when the stage advances, the signs become more evident. Here are some of the indications of soft tissue sarcoma, observing which the doctor can determine the severity of this disorder.
- Formation of lumps which are normally painless. Swelling in the nearby areas is also noticed.
- Pain and soreness may follow as the lump develops and presses on the nerves and muscles.
- Abdominal pain and cramps are noticed, in case the tumor is present in this region. This symptom is often mistaken to be menstrual cramps or indigestion.
- Other symptoms include generalized body weakness, fatigue, uneasiness, nausea-induced vomiting, fever and headaches, etc.
A biopsy, where a sample from the tumor may be taken, is conducted for the exact diagnosis of this disorder. Once the diagnostic tests are conducted, the oncologist may administer radiation therapy, along with chemotherapy to destroy the cancerous cells and curb their spread. In some cases, surgery may also be needed to remove the affected organ, to stop it from destroying other healthy organs.
Routine medical examination is one of the best ways to prevent soft tissue sarcoma. Any changes noticed in the body should be reported to a health care provider for timely treatment.