Irish Sarcoma Group

Soft Tissue Sarcomas

Soft Tissue SarcomasThere are many different types of soft tissue sarcoma. These include:


Liposarcoma is the most common soft tissue tumours. They are most common in adults 30-60 years old and are slightly more common in men than women.

These tumours usually develop in the deep fatty tissue. They most commonly occur in the upper leg, behind the knee, the groin, the buttock area or behind the organs in the belly (abdominal cavity).

These tumours usually feel solid and bumpy to touch and can spread to nearby parts of the body.

 Fibrosarcoma(Fibrous Tissue)

Fibrosarcomas are sarcomas in fibrous tissue (such as your muscles, nerves, blood vessels). They are usually found in the arms or legs or on the trunk of the body but can occur in any fibrous tissue. They can occur around scars, muscles, nerves, tendons, and around the lining of the bone.

Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans

This tumour develops as a lump sticking out of the skin usually found on the back or belly area. In the early stages the tumour stays under the skin and the skin has a dark red colour. If untreated the tumour can break through the skin forming an open wound. This type of tumour can come back but rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma (MFH)

Malignant fibrous histiocytomas are the most commonly diagnosed soft tissue sarcoma in patients 50-70 years old. Twice as many men than women can get this type of soft tissue sarcoma.
There are four types of MFH:

  1. storiform pleomorphic
  2. myxoid malignant fibrous histiocytoma
  3. malignant giant cell tumour of soft parts
  4. inflammatory malignant fibrous histiocytoma.

Synovial Cell Sarcoma

Synovial Cell sarcoma is usually found in young adults. They are most commonly found in the arms or legs next to a joint (where two bones meet). They are usually found around the joint capsule but rarely spread into the joint itself. The most common site is next to the knee. They are also commonly found near the foot, ankle and hand.

Unlike other soft tissue sarcomas, synovial cell sarcomas are often painful.

Epithelioid Sarcomas

Epithelioid sarcomas are usually found in the hand or foot of young adults. They appear like small lumps, which sometimes join together. Spreading of the cancer to lymph nodes happens in about one in five cases.

A rarer type of Epithelioid Sarcomas called PEComa or perivascular epithelioid cell tumours can occur in any part of the human body.

Rhabdomyosarcomas (Striated muscle tumour)

These cancerous muscle tumours are one of the most common types of soft tissue sarcoma. About half of all soft tissue sarcomas found in children are rhabdomyosarcoma. There are many different types, including embryonal, alveolar, botryoid and pleomorphic.

Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma
This is the most common type of rhabdomyosarcoma, and is diagnosed most often in children under the age of 10. It can be found anywhere in the body, but it is often found in the head and neck area especially around the eye.

Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma
This tumour is very fast growing and usually occurs in teenagers and young adults. This type of tumour spreads widely at an early stage.

Botryoid Rhabdomyosarcoma
These tumours usually occur in children around the age of 7. They generally occur in the pelvic area around the genital region and urinary system.

Pleomorphic Rhabdomyosarcoma
This tumour occurs most commonly in people over 30 years of age. Because it grows in the muscle, it is usually below the skin surface. Tumours can grow in many different areas within the same muscle and grow very fast. The tumour can spread to other parts of the body in the blood or through other vessels in the body.

Leiomyosarcoma (Smooth Muscle Tumour) and Uterine Sarcoma

Leiomyosarcomas are another type of muscle tumour which usually occur in the leg, bowel or womb. It usually occurs in people who are aSymptoms of bowel or womb leiomyosarcomas are bleeding and pain.

Gastrointestinal Sarcoma, otherwise known as Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumour (GIST).

GIST develops in tissue around the stomach and intestines.


Myxomas occur in men and women around the age of 50. They are most often found in the arms and legs. Tumours can be small lumps or very large tumours. They do not spread to other parts of the body; however, they can spread to tissue close to the tumour.


Mesenchymomas can be distributed throughout the body and approximately 75% are malignant. The tumours are invasive especially when they are located in the skeletal muscle. Treatment is wide excision sometimes combined with radiation and or chemotherapy.

Vascular Sarcomas (containing many blood vessels)

Hemangioendotheliomas are a very rare tumour of the blood vessels, which can be cancerous. They are found in men and women but rarely in children.

Angiosarcomas are rare and about a third of the cases occur on the skin and a quarter are found in the soft tissue or organs such as breast, liver, heart and lungs.

Hemangiopericytomas are typically found in the upper leg, behind the belly area or near the kidneys. Hemangiopericytomas can also grow within the skull.

Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumours

Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours are usually found in young to middle aged adults, and are more common in males. They occur in the nerves which are not in the brain or spinal cord. These tumours spread to the surrounding soft tissue forming a lumpy tumour. This type of cancer can spread through the bloodstream. These tumours can be painful and tender.

Alveolar Soft-Parts Sarcoma

This is a very rare tumour that typically occurs in adolescents and young adults. It is usually a slow growing tumour found in the arms and legs.

Kaposi’s Sarcoma

Kaposi’s Sarcoma is a disease in which cancerous cells are found under the skin or in the lining of the mouth, nose and anus. There are three groups of people who get Kaposi’s sarcoma. The first group typically includes older men of Jewish, Italian or Mediterranean heritage. This type of Kaposi’s usually grows slowly over 10-15 years. Patients usually have a bluish lesion on the front of the lower leg. After some time the disease can spread to other organs.

The second group of Kaposi’s sarcoma occurs in patients who have had an organ transplant.

The third group of Kaposi’s sarcoma is found in patients with AIDS.

Desmoid tumours

These tumours are slow growing tumours. They tend to spread to nearby tissues but not to other parts of your body.
More information on the different types of sarcoma may be found in the Links section.