Irish Sarcoma Group

Sarcomas are rare malignant tumours that arise from transformed cells of the connective tissues such as muscle, fat, cartilage or bone.

Approximately 80% arise in soft tissue (STS) and 60% occur in the lower limb. They may, however, affect almost any part of the body.

STS may occur at any age, and although most common in middle aged and older adults, they only represent 1% of all adult cancers. They are relatively more common in children and young adults, accounting for 7–10% of paediatric malignancies. In Ireland approximately 200-250 adults are diagnosed with some form of sarcoma each year.

It is difficult to generalise about specific symptoms and the following should act as a guide only:

Symptoms of soft tissue sarcomas:

In their early stages soft tissue sarcomas do not usually cause symptoms. As sarcomas can grow anywhere in the body, the symptoms will depend on where the cancer is. The main symptoms can include

  • A lump that is painless at first
  • Pain or soreness as the lump grows and presses against nerves and muscles

Of course, many people get lumps and bumps and most of them will not be cancer.

A lump is more likely to be a sarcoma if it

  • Is big (for example, more than 5 cm across) or getting bigger
  • Is deep in the body tissues
  • Is painful
  • Occurs when you are older

It is possible to have other symptoms from sarcoma, depending on where they are in the body.

Symptoms of bone sarcomas:

Bone sarcomas most frequently present as pain (or occasionally an enlarging hard lump) around a bone – most frequently close to the knee.

Remember that all these symptoms are more frequently caused by conditions other than cancer. This is a rare disease, and it is much more likely that some other problem is causing your symptoms.

The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful. So it is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible if you notice worrying symptoms.

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