Signs, Symptoms & Treatments of Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that develops in the body’s soft tissues, such as tendons, muscles, blood vessels, fat, deep skin tissues, and nerves. Though soft tissue sarcomas can develop at any age, adults are most likely to be diagnosed. It is essential to know the symptoms and signs of this disease and take suitable precautions early.

Signs and Symptoms
Soft tissue sarcoma can often be identified by a painless lump or swelling in the affected area. The size of the lump can vary and become more prominent over time. However, not all lumps suggest sarcoma because various harmless diseases might show similar symptoms. Soft tissue sarcoma also has the following signs and symptoms:

Limited mobility: A sarcoma near a joint or muscle may restrict movement and induce stiffness, making daily activities difficult.

Noticeable growth: If you notice a lump rapidly growing or changing in size, it is suggested to seek medical attention immediately for examination.

Pressure symptoms: Soft tissue sarcoma can cause additional symptoms, such as breathing problems if the tumor is near the lungs or difficulty swallowing in the throat, depending on the tumor’s location.

Tenderness or discomfort: Soft tissue sarcoma is usually painless in the early stages, but pain can occur when the tumor grows larger or presses on adjacent nerves.

Tiredness and unexplained weight loss: Soft tissue sarcoma may result in generalized fatigue and unintentional weight loss in its advanced stages.

The diagnosis of soft tissue sarcoma requires a comprehensive approach, including multiple methods. Physicians can use the following techniques:

Physical examination: The lump or affected area is thoroughly examined to determine its size, shape, tenderness, and mobility.

Imaging tests: X-rays, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can generate detailed images to help visualize the tumor and determine its position and size.

Biopsy: A sample of the suspicious tissue is collected and examined under a microscope to confirm the presence of sarcoma and determine its type.

Treatment Options
Soft tissue sarcoma treatment is determined by several factors, including the tumor’s size, location, stage, and the individual’s overall health. The following are the primary treatments for soft tissue sarcoma:

Surgery: The most common treatment method is surgical removal of the tumor. The goal is to complete the resection while retaining function and appearance. Reconstructive surgery may sometimes be required to restore the damaged area’s form and function.

Radiation therapy: Before surgery, high-energy radiation is aimed at the tumor to destroy cancer cells or shrink the tumor. It can also be used to eliminate any leftover cancer cells following surgery.

Targeted therapy: This is a treatment that uses medications to directly target genetic mutations or specific proteins found in cancer cells, thereby reducing their growth and spread.

Chemotherapy: It uses medications to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy can be given before or after surgery or when surgery is not an option.

Immunotherapy: This therapy boosts the body’s immune system’s ability to combat cancer cells. It can be used in some cases of soft tissue sarcoma, especially if all other alternatives have been explored.

Early identification and timely treatment can significantly improve soft tissue sarcoma survival. It is crucial to consult a medical expert for a more thorough evaluation if an individual notices any unusual lumps or experiences any concerning symptoms. Due to advanced technologies, the treatment and management of this severe disease have significantly improved, giving optimistic hope to the patients and their families in fighting this disease.

Dr. Satish Sharma (Consultant Medical oncology), HCG Cancer Centre, Ranchi

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