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Soft tissue sarcoma

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Symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcoma may not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages because it usually develops in areas where the tumour can push the soft tissue out of the way as it grows. Symptoms usually appear once the tumour grows into surrounding tissues and organs. Other health conditions can cause the same symptoms as soft tissue sarcoma. See your doctor if you have these symptoms.

Common symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma

Signs and symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma may vary depending on the location and type of tumour.

Soft tissue sarcoma in a limb, the chest or the head and neck area

Soft tissue sarcomas can occur almost anywhere in the body. Over 50% begin in a limb (an arm or leg). They can also occur in the chest or the head and neck area. The most common symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma in these parts of the body are a lump and pain.

Usually a lump grows slowly over a period of time, such as weeks or months. People often notice a lump in a limb or the head and neck area sooner than they find a lump in the abdomen. As a result, lumps in a limb or the head and neck are usually smaller when they are found.

The lump is often painless at first. As the tumour grows and puts pressure on surrounding nerves or tissues, it causes tenderness or pain.

Soft tissue sarcoma in the abdomen or retroperitoneum

The abdomen is the part of the body between the chest and the pelvis. The retroperitoneum is the area in the back of the abdomen. In the beginning, they may not cause symptoms or the symptoms can be very vague. Tumours in the abdomen can grow quite large before they are noticed.

The symptoms of sarcoma in the abdomen or retroperitoneum might include:

  • swelling or a lump in the abdomen
  • feeling of fullness
  • abdominal pain (about one-third of people with abdominal tumours have pain)
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • heartburn
  • bleeding in the stomach or intestines

If there is bleeding in the stomach or intestines, you may see blood in vomit or stool (feces). Bleeding in the intestines may cause black, tarry stools. Bleeding may also cause symptoms of anemia, including fatigue or feeling faint.

Kaposi sarcoma

Signs and symptoms of Kaposi sarcoma include:

  • slightly elevated purple, brown, red or pink spots (lesions) anywhere on the skin
  • lumps in the mouth, nose, throat or anus
  • a buildup of fluid in the limbs, called lymphedema
  • unexplained cough or chest pain
  • difficulty breathing
  • unexplained stomach or intestinal pain
  • diarrhea or bowel obstruction (blockage) caused by tumours in the gastrointestinal system

Rare signs and symptoms

In rare cases, soft tissue sarcoma can cause general symptoms such as:

  • fever
  • chills
  • sweats
  • weight loss
  • fatigue


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